The first Mass reading today from the Book of Sirach instructs “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.” Similarly, today’s Gospel from Luke finds Jesus using the example of banquet seating as a way to instruct against the desire for honor and in favor of humility.
In his homily this morning, Fr. Dan Griffith suggested that humility is one of the virtues most prized by Jesus. And he suggested three ways to practice humility: to know who we are before God, to recognize and admit our weaknesses and limitations, and to recognize that all of our gifts come from God.
Together those three practices help us understand the difference between true humility and false humility. True humility is not about low self-esteem or feeling badly about ourselves. It is about seeing ourselves as we truly are. And that means first, understanding that (to use a colloquial expression I sometimes use) that God is God and I am not and embracing my dependence on God (poverty of spirit). It means second, understanding that all we are and all we have are gifts from our loving God. And it means accepting both that I am not perfect and that God does not expect perfection from me.
The truly humble see themselves as they are, neither lower or higher. And that is a worthy virtue to practice.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks states that in Judaism humility is an appreciation of oneself, one’s talents, skills, and virtues. It is not meekness or self deprecating thought, but the effacing of oneself to something higher. Humility is not to think lowly of oneself, but to appreciate the self one has received. In recognition of the mysteries and complexities of life, one becomes humbled to the awesomeness one is and what one can achieve. Rabbi Pini Dunner discusses that humility is to place others first; it is to appreciate others’ worth as important. In recognizing our worth as people, Rabbi Dunner shows that looking into the zillions of stars in the sky, and in the length and history of time, you and I are insignificant, like dust. Rabbi Dunner states that Moses wrote in the Torah, “And Moses was exceedingly humble, more than any man on the face of the earth.” How is it possible to be humble and write you are the most humble? The conclusion is that Moses knew he was humble. It is not in denying your talents and gifts but to recognize them and live up to your worth and something greater. It is in the service to others that is the greatest form of humility.
I would revise one thing – I am not perfect, but God expects me to strive for perfection. It’s scriptural 🙂 Very nice reflection.