Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 1, 2013 Cycle C
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.B.

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In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today’s readings talk about humility.

When Pope Francis met Emeritus Pope Benedict and the two entered a chapel to pray, Benedict tried to direct Francis to the papal kneeler in the front, to the place of honor, but Francis refused.

Taking Benedict’s hands and drawing him near, Francis said: “No, we are brothers.” The two used a longer kneeler in the pews and prayed side-by-side. Afterwards, Francis gave a gift to Benedict, an icon of the Madonna. “They told me it's the Madonna of Humility,” Francis told Benedict. “Let me say one thing: When they told me that, I immediately thought of you, of the many marvelous examples of humility and gentleness that you gave us during your pontificate.”

The two Popes give us an excellent example of what it means to be humble.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus noticed that the other guests of the Pharisee were all choosing the places of honor at the table. He noticed that there was too much pride in that dining room! They were fighting for the first place! Do we not see the same thing today?  Do we not see it in our world, in our families, at work etc. We all like to be considered important. What others think about us is important to us.

A spiritual author used to say: “Pride is the last vice to leave those returning to God and the first to greet those leaving God behind.” Humility is certainly not a spontaneous virtue.

Pride is not only a vice of public sinners. A lack of humility is a problem that affects all of us. If we think that we are already humble, then we really have some work to do. The worst modality of pride is spiritual pride—people who think they can be good by themselves, like the young rich man in the Gospel who followed all the commandments but did not want to follow Jesus because he was full of himself.

In the verse drama Murder in the Cathedral, T. S. Elliot tells the story of Saint Thomas Beckett. The saint is tempted four times. The fourth Tempter strives to persuade Becket to pursue martyrdom but as an act of pride: “Think of glory after death. Think of pilgrims, standing in line / Before the glittering jeweled shrine.” The Tempter tries to tempt Becket to seize the honor of sainthood but the archbishop answers him: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: / To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

We need examples to learn how to be humble. The first example is Jesus Christ. As God, he descended to our condition. He was born in a humble stable and died on the cross. Then we have Mary, the handmaid of the Lord. With her humility, she brought salvation to us. We have the saints. We have Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict. Perhaps we have someone close to us who teaches us this virtue.

Let us ask Our Lady of Humility to obtain the grace of being humble for us. May we learn humility of heart with her.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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