YEAR C: HOMILY FOR 22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: GO DOWN : CHRIST’S GOSPEL OF HUMILITY!
BY: Fr. Ben Agbo
HOMILY: Sir 3 : 17 – 29, Heb 12 : 18 – 24, Lk 14 : 1 – 14.
We are told in today’s gospel that at a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees, they watched him (Jesus) closely and he also watched them closely and noticed how they loved to take the places of honour during ceremonies.
He therefore released another parable (tablets of teaching) : the Parable of the embarrassed guest (the proud guest) together with a follow up maxim : Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and the man who humbles himself will be exalted. (Take a case study of King Nebuchadnezzar, Dan 4 and Our Blessed Virgin Mary, Lk 1 :51).
Jesus, as a master teacher teaches with various styles and at different levels of intellectual and emotional velocity.
– At Gear 1 : He uses simple language, eg Beatitudes, Matt 5 : 1 – 11.
– At Gear 2 : He uses descriptive parables, eg Parable of the Good Samaritan, Lk 15 :1-15.
– At Gear 3 : He uses categorical imperatives, eg ‘Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven’, Mk 10 :15.
– At Gear 4 : He uses automatic maxims, eg ‘Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled’, Lk 14 : 7-14 or ‘Everyone who gives will be given’, Lk 6 : 38.
– At Gear 5 : He releases what A. T Robertson calls ‘Rolling thunderstorms of judgment’ eg ‘Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees’, Matt 23 :13 – 32.
The entire sermon on the mountain can be summarized as ‘the gospel of humility’. Christ’s gospel of humility today simply says : ‘Go down’ – Not only in thoughts, words, but behaviour – Not only in the way you behave when somebody invites you to a ceremony but even when you are inviting people to your own ceremonies – Go down and invite the poor, the needy and the worthless who may never reward you.
– The law of nature has it that promotion always come to those who demote themselves. God has a way of rewarding and uplifting those who choose by themselves to go down. He who is down needs no more fall. His next option must be to rise or remain there.
– There is a caveat here however : Genuine humility is going low with the intention to remain there. Pseudo humility, as Fr Samson Asadu will put it is stepping low only to be waiting for the M.C at ceremonies to recognize you and when he doesn’t, you go home very sad and disappointed.
B. DEFINITION OF HUMILITY
Humility is the mother of all virtues. St Augustine was once asked what was the most important of all virtues. His answer was ‘humility’. He was asked to pick the next two and he still picked humility.
– People have defined humility as taking one’s rightful position but today Christ says it is taking a lower position. St Paul also confirms this definition of humility in Phil 2 : 5 – 11.
– I have a very banal definition of humility that has been faulted by many yet I present it for its nuisance value here. I define humility as a pretentious act of condescension that becomes real with time. As long as you are learning it, it is pretense, but as soon as the condescension becomes real it is humility. I call it a reality learnt through pretence, acting or self denial.
– Humility is a battle against the ego. Shammi Sukh defines Egotism as the obesity of the head and observes that the ego virus is more dangerous and more contagious than the HIV. There are 2 extreme ego positions : (i) Saying ‘I am everything’. This is a sickness called megalomania that was found in personalities like Adolf Hitler. (ii) Saying ‘I am nothing’. This is a sickness called inferiority complex that has prevented many of us from being great today. The ideal position is to say ‘I am something in Christ’, Phil 4 :13. St Paul says ‘What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast with it as if it were not a gift? 1Cor 4 : 7. Let me add that if we don’t get used to going down now that we are alife, death is going to be a disaster for us because we must be taken down 6 feet by force below the earth ‘.
C. DEFINITION OF PRIDE
Today’s 1st reading says that pride is the worst of all vices because of its destructive tendency, Sir 3 :28. ‘The affliction of the proud has no healing for a plant of wickedness has taken root in them’.
– It makes one so self centered that he can never think of others.
– It makes one unable to learn more and one can’t be corrected.
It makes one unable to relate well neither with God (in prayer) nor with his /her neighbour.
Our world of today is so full of braggadacio /vain glory. In Nigeria, this sickness has become like a venereal disease. The terminology ‘VIP s’ – Very Important Persons is so pivotal in people’s psyche at every ceremony. Even ecclesiastical personalities will like to be addressed with the title ‘Very Rev Dr Dr…’ Politicians will like to be addressed as ‘Honourable Dr Chief Sir… ‘etc.
– We need humility starting from the house of God. We need humility in prayer, during offerings /barzar, while receiving communion (We still want to hear people say ‘Lord I am not worthy to receive you… Matt 18 :8), in our ceremonies, in politics, and even in academics.
– Humility, gentility and patience are triplets that were born on the same day to effectively combat the virus of pride.
I have witnessed divine visitation on a number of proud individuals and families that has shocked me to the marrows. I have also had a number of experiences under the school of humility. In one of my retreat experiences with the Jesuits at Benin, I met a gardener with a hat cutting flowers at the entrance avenue who welcomed me hilariously and carried my bags to the reception. He served me at the refectory at night but to my utmost chagrin, I was later to learn that this gardener was a Jesuit priest – a professor and holder of 2 doctoral degrees and was to be my retreat moderator for the 1week I stayed there. It was a life changing experience.
May the life of Jesus and our Blessed Mother Mary inspire us. At the marriage feast at Cana, she left the VIP position at the high table to notice at the back yard that the wine had finished and swung into action. According to St Louis de Montfort : ‘One of the reasons why few souls arrive at the fullness of Christ’ s virtues is that Mary is not well formed in their hearts. He who wants ripe and well formed fruit must possess the tree that bears it. He who wants the fruit of life – Jesus Christ, must have the tree of life that bears him – Mary. He who desires the operation of the Holy Ghost within him, must have His eternal spouse, Mary, who makes Him fruitful! ‘(True Devotion to Mary, p.73). Happy Sunday dear friends!