Have you ever had to eat humble pie? We usually have to do that when we act as if we know everything, or at least people believe we can do everything – only to find out later that we cannot live up to our billing.
Eating humble pie is forced on us by being humiliated (in public) and then living with the consequences.
The humility we hear about in today’s Gospel (Luke 14:1, 7-14) is voluntarily taken on by the person who wants to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Imagine the daily tasks of a mother or father who is raising children. They are constantly faced with decisions about the maturity of their children. How can they as parents give life day-to-day to their children – letting their children shine many times brighter than themselves? Their children know much more about the computer, video games, etc. and this can be humbling.
Rejoicing in the success of a child sometimes means taking a back seat or more especially, waiting in the front seat of an SUV. A parent humbly accepts the lower place from the attention of others to build up their children.
Imagine the daily task of a married couple who tries to keep their commitment fresh and alive. With daily hurts and loneliness, each partner has to choose to set aside some of his or her immediate wants for the sake of the other. Chosen humility calls a husband and a wife to set aside their own wants for the sake of others.
Chosen humility is a great thought – but do we ever really choose it freely? Humility is one of those “religious” terms that we say is great, but living it out is so difficult to choose.
The example in today’s Gospel is one that most of us would never choose. Imagine planning a banquet and then inviting people you don’t know. Did you ever throw a party for those who are poor or downtrodden like Jesus says to do? Or pick out the people in your life who you are most estranged from and invite them to your house for a good time? If we are honest, we have never done that and we never will do that.
When we plan a dinner, we invite our friends. We plan a party for those who are like us or who can make a connection in business for us. Why would we waste our time with those who we are not connected with – the poor, the sick, the suffering? Wouldn’t it take the fun out of the evening? Wouldn’t it be more trouble than it was worth?
Before we dismiss today’s Gospel teaching on chosen humility as crazy or outdated, let’s reflect on our own experience. There were times when you did what the Gospel is suggesting. There were times when you did choose humility.
Someone at work or school who you hardly knew had a family member in great need. You went out of your way to collect money, sell tickets, pass our flyers, bake something or attend a function. It took time, energy and money on your part.
When we have said YES and chosen humility as Jesus asks us to do with our time and our presence – it really feels wonderful inside. It felt so great because we weren’t helping our family or our friends. We were helping a stranger who was poor, hungry or hurting.
What Jesus is trying to give us today is a special gift – the special gift of both knowing, feeling and then experiencing that we are no different than the poor, the hungry or the hurting. We are all sisters and brothers.
This gift is especially helpful when we have to battle our own loneliness. And we all have to battle loneliness when we are sick, when we are misunderstood, made fun of and family members move on.
Jesus’ special gift is our saving grace. Having reached out and invited strangers who were hurting into our lives, we come to realize we are not alone. We are the hands and the heart and the face of God to each other.
It is possible to be too big for God to use you….
But you can never be too small for God to use you….