Cycle [C] 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Sir. 3:17-20, 28-29; Heb. 12:18-19, 22-24a; Lk. 14:1, 7-14

Mr. Zavere Poonawala is a well-known Parsee industrialist in Pune, India. He had this driver named Ganga Datt with him for the last 30 years on his limousine. When he heard that Ganga Datt passed away, he canceled all his meetings, requested the driver’s family to await him for the cremation and came back to Pune immediately by a helicopter.

On reaching Pune, he asked the limo to be decorated with flowers as he wished Ganga Datt should be taken in the same car which he himself had driven since the beginning. When Ganga Datt’s family agreed to his wishes, he himself drove Ganga Datt from his home up to the ghat on his last journey.

When asked about it, Mr. Poonawala replied that Ganga Datt had served him day and night, and he could at least do this

being eternally grateful to him. 

His comment in the end was:

“Everybody earns money which is nothing unusual in that, but we should always be grateful to those people who contribute to our success. This is the belief, we have been brought up with, which made me do, what I did”.

Today's First Reading from the Book of Sirach teaches us that if we perform our tasks with humility, we will be loved by those whom God accepts. The greater we are, the more we must humble ourselves, so we will find favour in the sight of the Lord. [Sir. 3:17-18] When Jesus taught His disciples the meaning of true greatness, He called a child and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greater in the Kingdom of Heaven." [Mt. 18:2-4]

During today's Gospel reading, we heard Jesus talking about where the guests should sit at the table when invited somewhere. As a general rule in a fixed system, the most distinguished guest sits at the right hand of the host where he receives the highest honour. The second most important guest sits at the left side of the host, and so on. He used this example of good manners at the table to draw attention to how honour is accredited in the Kingdom of God.

The Bible has a number of stories that show the importance of humility.

Manasseh became the king of Judah when he was only twelve years old and did many things that angered God. God spoke to Manasseh about his people’s sins but, he didn’t listen. And because Manasseh didn’t listen, God brought the king of Assyria and his army to fight against Manasseh’s kingdom. It was a victory for the Assyrians who then captured the king and took him away.

During his imprisonment, Manasseh humbled himself before God and prayed wholeheartedly. God was able to see his efforts and his genuine intent to repent. Because of this, He helped Manasseh by rescuing him, bringing him back to Jerusalem and restored his kingdom. The Lord blessed him the moment he decided to live under the influence of humility.

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is a great example that Jesus has given. This parable explains the power of humility as seen in our prayers. In the parable, Jesus talks about two men who went up to the temple and pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 

The Pharisee began thanking God for “not being like other people”. He thanked God for not being one of the sinners and even added that he fasts twice a week and gave tenths of everything he receives. Now, the tax collector stood far away. He could not even look to heaven as he beat his breast and asked the Lord to have mercy on him, a sinner. The parable then ends with Jesus saying that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

It is important to stay humble because having humility not only helps us develop a more kind approach to interacting with others but it also influences how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Humility helps one extend more compassion and empathy to others.  Humility offers the opportunity to become less self-involved and more attuned with the feelings of others.

It is relatively easy to be humble when we are at the bottom of the tree, as it were: new in a job, or very junior. The more senior we get, the more likely that we become proud. 

A key quality of humility is to value others and enable them to be heard. Spending time listening to others, and drawing out their feelings and values, enabling them to express themselves, is a very powerful way to start to understand this.

Secondly, be grateful for what we have. In other words, take the time to ‘count your blessings’, and be thankful for them. It is easy to get sucked into a negative spiral of wanting more. Taking time to stop, and remember what we have to be grateful for, is a good way to cultivate a more humble and positive frame of mind.

The Book of Ezekiel shows a story about the consequences of not having humility. One day, there was a prophecy about a man that served as the ruler of Tyre. He was boastful and he saw himself equal to God. He thought that he was as powerful as God and became too confident in the silver and gold he obtained through his knowledge in trading. His boastfulness angered the Lord. So, God said that He was going to bring foreigners against his kingdom. “Foreigners” mean ruthless opponents that will attack the proud ruler’s nation and draw their swords against him. And the doom of the Prince of Tyre was pronounced.

The Proverbs says that the Lord detests everyone with a proud heart and that they will be punished. Pride is very offensive in the Eyes of God. With humility, we learn that this is the truth and that we should put ourselves before Him. Not being humble is basically like declaring that we are no longer in need of God’s guidance, and that is offensive to the Lord.

In washing the feet of His disciples Jesus set the greatest example of humility. Jesus set the bar for being humble. Our aim is to be like Jesus. So, if Jesus set the standard for humility, we should lower our level of pride to attain this. The Grace of God is like a waterfall; the water never flows upward to the skies. Instead, it flows and hits the ground in a downward motion. Therefore, those who are blessed are those who are humble.