YEAR C: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14
Message # 74: “Your Heaviest Cross”
(TO THE PRIESTS, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons, Marian Movement of Priests)
- The Marian Message
a) The Blessed Mother is saying that the modern Pharisees are the unfaithful priests. They are still her priest-sons, but her heart is bleeding with sorrow seeing these priests are living in habitual sin, unfaithful to their priestly vows, proud and egoistic, and propagators of errors and infidelity to the people (letter e). “They have fallen under the dominion of Satan” (letter h). Hence, the Kingdom of God is hidden and far away from them.
b) She urges us to “help them, without judging them” (letter k). This we do by loving them by our suffering, our witnessing and good example. Such priests need our love and fraternal correction, and not our condemnation. Nevertheless, we should be careful so that they will not scandalize us (that is, lead us to sin), and mislead us by the errors they teach.
c) The Blessed Mother also earnestly asks us to pray for these priests, so they may have conversion and repentance (letter m). The triumph of her Immaculate Heart will begin with the salvation of these priests who have gone astray.
d) Finally she asks us to suffer with the Pope, the Bishops and the faithful priests, by bearing with them the heavy cross. This heavy cross is “to live side-by-side with these unfaithful priests who continue to remain in the Church to be ministers of infidelity” (letters o and p). More serious scandals will come, so we have to suffer more until the great liberating purification comes (letter q). In the meantime, we “live simply in surrender and trust” in her Immaculate Heart (letter r).
- The Sunday Readings
a) The first reading is dedicated entirely to the admonition of remaining humble at all times: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” Humility is an unattractive virtue that makes a person truly attractive to God and people.
b) The Responsorial Psalm is a song that is meant to encourage the poor and humble people. It is an affirmation of God’s bountiful providence and their favored status in His eyes: “God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.” When we feel so low and overwhelmed by problems and our inadequacies, we just have to reflect on this particular Psalm and be encouraged and inspired to move on.
c) The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews directs the faithful to their final destination. We are all destined to approach the eternal throne of God. This realization should make us absolutely humble, and at the same time it gives us confidence and encouragement to remain faithful to God in spite of all adversities we encounter and all hostilities against us.
d) The Gospel is the parable that Jesus told, “to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.” He took this occasion to teach, not only a practical advice on proper decorum in social gatherings, but most importantly, on the importance of the virtue of humility. In the kingdom of God, the law of humility is essential: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
e) The Marian message is basically a call to repentance and conversion, firstly, for the priests of the Church, and secondly, for all faithful. Pride has infected practically everybody in the world. That is why we have to be reminded at all times that we need to be humble, avoid judging one another, and help each one to rise up and walk ever more faithfully on the road to salvation.
- Some Basic Information
a) The mark of the devil is pride. It is the worst capital sin of all. From it come all the other sins, great and small. The name Lucifer means light-bearer (angel of light). Being an angel, he is an intelligent spiritual being: he knows what is good or bad right away, that is, by intuition; no need for reasoning or any mental process. So when he committed the sin of pride, there is no excuse. He was condemned to hell. From being Lucifer, he became Satan, meaning Adversary or Enemy. Pride made him disobey God, and even think he is God. (That is what the Masons are trying to do: to enthrone Satan in heaven as God!) And the ultimate result of pride is to say what Satan said to God: “Non Serviam” (I will not serve).
b) There are different kinds of pride, according to different objects. There is material pride, for those people who boast of their material possessions and riches; intellectual pride, for those who brag about their talents and intelligence; and the worst of all, spiritual pride, or the so-called “holier-than-thou” attitude, or self-righteousness, like that of the scribes and Pharisees. In all of these kinds of pride, there is only one result: idol worship or idolatry. The proud person worships not God anymore but money (material pride), glory and fame (intellectual pride), and himself (spiritual pride).
c) The story of Cain and Abel in Genesis is a good lesson on pride. Cain was the first human born and Abel was the first human to die. Cain committed the first murder in human history by killing his younger brother (fratricide). What led to this crime? It is pride. Cain was a farmer. He offered burnt sacrifices to God by offering the choice fruits of the land. This is truly praiseworthy. But God looks into the heart: “It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice.” God saw in Cain a heart with pride. So, his offerings, no matter how valuable and commendable, are not pleasing to God. On the other hand, Abel was a shepherd. He offered burnt sacrifices from his flock. Since his heart is humble and pure, his offerings were truly pleasing to God. So when Cain realized that Abel’s offerings were more pleasing to God than his offerings, he became envious. His envy turned into hatred, and finally into murder of his own brother. A proud person easily becomes insecure, envious, and angry. This leads to more grievous sins and horrible crimes.
- Points for Reflection
a) The Kingdom of God can never be discovered and attained through any purely human capacity and endeavor. It is impossible. God alone is the source of all powers and knowledge that will enable anybody to discover and attain His kingdom. That is why those who think that since they are intelligent, learned and holy, they can discover the secrets of the Kingdom of God, are really mistaken. It is not a subject matter that can be taken up in school, nor a goal to be attained through pious acts. Rather, it is a gift from God, given only to those who share in the values of the Kingdom, that is, the “merest children”. That is why God’s Kingdom is revealed to them because they belong to it, while it is hidden from the so-called “learned and wise” who have become proud because they are alien to this Kingdom.
b) The “merest children” are not necessarily those who are children by age, but also those who have the attributes and qualities of children: humble, simple, docile, obedient, trusting and loving. They need not be learned in theology or in any sacred sciences; they need not be intellectually gifted; they may not even be in positions of prominence in the ecclesiastical or civil society. But since they share in the qualities of God, they truly belong to God and His Kingdom. (Sila ay maituturing na “kapamilya” dahil sila ay “kapuso” ng Diyos – ang kanilang ugali ay katulad sa Diyos).
c) Pride is essentially the refusal to acknowledge God in one’s life, and the desire to put oneself above God. This is exactly what happened to Satan – from being the angel Lucifer, he became the Adversary. He refused to submit to God – “I will not serve,” he declared. And he tried to put himself at par or even above God. We may not realize this, but we become like Satan when pride rules our life. There are many proud people – and among them are Christians and even priests and bishops. For, indeed, pride can infect anybody. They still go to church and claim to be Christians. But actually, they do not worship God authentically – they worship their own self. Even their prayers are selfish – they pray, not to follow God’s will, but to dictate on God their own will. And in dealing with other people, they always look down on others – this is an expression of their thinking that they are better than the others, that they are the center of the world, that they do not need God, and finally, that they are God already. So they become the enemy of God, since there can be no other God (that is the first commandment). Looking down on people, they naturally forget or knowingly disregard the fact that there is still Somebody higher than them.
d) The only way to overcome pride is the virtue of humility. It is the most basic Christian virtue. It is the mark of God. God humbled Himself by becoming man like us in all things except sin. The distance between being God and being man is infinite. Yet God did that, and emptied Himself, even dying on the cross. And if we truly want to follow Jesus, the first step is to be humble and empty ourselves: “He who wants to follow me must deny his very self, take up his cross and begin to follow in my footsteps.” There is no possibility to follow Christ when we are not humble. There is no possibility of spiritual growth in Christian virtues without humility. Only in humility can we overcome the sin of pride and avoid eternal punishment. Indicators of true humility are when we are not anymore insecure, envious, jealous and ambitious. Refer to the Prayer for Humility in the Cenacle Prayer Guide for the details on the concrete qualities of being humble.
e) A proud person is always insecure and unhappy. He is usually paranoid, always thinking that others are out to pull him down. Deep inside, he knows that, being proud, he is always standing on shaky ground – he can fall and self-destruct at any time. This thought makes him unstable, insecure and afraid. As a result, he cannot be happy. He cannot establish lasting relationships because of his egoistic attitudes, and he soon loses real friends. The friends that he has are just interested in getting something from him. And this drives him to further insecurities and paranoia.
f) On the other hand, a truly humble person is secure and happy. He has many friends, and he does not think ill of anybody. Even if other people may treat him badly, he does not resent them, nor does he seek revenge. With no bloated ego, he is not hurt by harsh criticisms and slander. He is not afraid to be pulled down because he is used to being down – he cannot go down any further. He does not talk about himself, and so he easily gains true friends because they feel secure and at peace with him. Such is the example of the saints – happy, peaceful and graceful all the time.
g) Pride is the result of a mistaken comparison. It is just a matter of choosing our point of reference. If we compare ourselves with others, we will surely find many people who are of lesser capacities and status than ourselves. That makes us proud and even arrogant. Even in the aspect of holiness – and this is classically illustrated by the scribes and Pharisees – when we look at others, we will easily see people who are not as holy as we are. This leads to spiritual pride. So, instead of looking at others, let us look at God. Doing so will always make us realize how sinful, unworthy and insignificant we are. That will surely lead us to be more humble. That is why, at the start of the Mass, we have the Penitential Rite for us to have the proper disposition for the Eucharistic celebration. That disposition is humility – we look at God, and we realize our sinfulness. Then with humble and contrite hearts, we ask God for forgiveness: “Lord, have mercy.” Only then can we be properly disposed to join in the celebration of the Holy Mass.
And at the second part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which starts with the Preparation of Gifts (Offertory), it is highly recommended that the priest assumes the ad orientem position (facing the altar), to better express that we, the priest and the people, together face God, that God is the center of the Eucharistic celebration, not the priest nor anybody else. This is definitely and expression of humble disposition in the presence of God.
h) The best example of humility is Mary. She is the maidservant of the Lord, who looked upon her lowliness. Her perfect humility made her own self totally empty of selfishness and egotism, and that is why she was ready to receive the greatest gift of all, the Son of God, in her womb. She crushes the head of the serpent for in her humility she has the full power of God over the proud serpent, Satan. Anyone who is humble like her is feared by the devil for he knows that the power of God resides in the humble heart. Most importantly, humility makes one always ready to do the will of God. Mary’s unconditional obedience to God is the key to her power that the devil cannot overcome. A humble person is truly powerful.
Recite the Prayer of Humility
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE BEC:
1. Ang kababaang-loob ay laging kasama ang katotohanan. Kaya mayroong tinatawag na “false humility” kapag ang kapakumbabaan ay pakitang-tao lamang – ito ay kayabangan at pagmamataas din na nagbabalatkayo. Ano ang masasabi mo tungkol dito?
2. Ang taong tunay na mapagpakumbaba ay a) kahanga-hanga, b) masaya at k) makapangyarihan. Magbahaginan ng kuro-kuro hinggil sa pangungusap na ito.
3. Pag-usapan ang maaaring gawing mga hakbang upang maiwasan ang pagmamayabang at pagmamataas.