Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 28, 2022
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings share the common theme of humility, instructing us that the virtue is essential to our salvation.
Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord,
and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.
Humility, of course, gets a bad rap in our dominating, “me” culture. We tend to think of humiliation, servitude, inelegance rather than the actual root of the word: humus -“of the earth”.
I was fascinated a few years ago by a small fracas arising from the unconsidered remarks of one of our Phillies baseball players. The team had been running hot and cold – with a little bit too much cold for some fans. The famous Philly “boos” had been flying. Frustrated with these, then outfielder Sean Rodriguez referred to the disgruntled fans as “entitled”.
Uh oh! They didn’t like that. We prefer to think of ourselves as “deserving “, right?
Humility is that virtue which helps us realize that we are not “entitled” or “deserving” of anything over and above other human beings. It roots us in the respect for each other that refuses to rank the worth of other human beings.
The social leverage that comes from wealth, power, and influence can beguile us. We become lost in a maze of stereotypes, rankings and prejudices which are the foundation of social injustice.
Do we ever hear among ourselves justifying phrases for our entitlement like these. Maybe the thoughts go unexpressed, but the attitude is unmistakably there:
- well, I earned what I have
- at least I paid for what I have
- “they” need to work if they want to have …(food, healthcare, housing…)
- it’s their own fault for … (dropping out of school, taking drugs, ….)
- that’s just the way it is in “those” countries. The people are …(lazy, stupid, violent …)
- “they” don’t need what I need. “They” are used to being … (poor, disabled, sick …)
And probably the most dangerous of all the phrases:
- it’s not my problem
- I’m not the one exiling, bombing, blocking, trafficking, enslaving “them”
Today’s readings enjoin us: it is my problem. My attitude, choices, vote, conversation, and lifestyle matter at the banquet of life we are all meant to share.
My intention to humbly join and rejoice with all Creation, to take a seat beside and never above my sister and brother – this is my only “entitlement” to the one banquet that matters.
When you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
Prose – from Mary Oliver in Upstream (Penguin Press, 2016)
Understand from the first this certainty. Butterflies don’t write books, neither do lilies, or violets. Which doesn’t mean they don’t know, in their own way, what they are. That they don’t know they are alive – that they don’t feel, that action upon which all consciousness sits, lightly or heavily.
Humility is the prize of the leaf-world.
Vainglory is the bane of us, the humans.
Sometimes the desire to be lost again, as long ago, comes over me like a vapor. With growth into adulthood, responsibilities claimed me, so many heavy coats. I didn’t choose them, I don’t fault them, but it took time to reject them. Now in the spring I kneel, I put my face into the packets of violets, the dampness, the freshness, the sense of ever-ness. Something is wrong, I know it, if I don’t keep my attention on eternity. May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful. May I stay forever in the stream. May I look down upon the windflower and the bull thistle and the coreopsis with the greatest respect.
Music: A Place at the Table – Lori True and Shirley Elena Murray