September 1, 2019 • 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Sirach 3:17–18, 20, 28–29
Psalm: Psalm 68:4–5, 6–7, 10–11 (cf. 11b)
Second Reading: Hebrews 12:18–19, 22–24a
Gospel Acclamation: Matthew 11:29a, b
Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7–14
This Sunday’s readings are about the virtue of humility, its advantages and characteristics.
When this passage from Sirach speaks of conducting our affairs with humility, the author is talking about dealing with other people in the course of our daily tasks. He says that if we are humble, we will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Why is that? I think it is because humble people are approachable. They draw us out by asking us questions about ourselves. They aren’t pushy in sharing their opinions. They aren’t trying to prove themselves or clamoring to be noticed. They are people we want to be around, like moths fluttering around the light.
The next piece of advice given is that the more we are admired by our peers or are granted authority or acquire influence and power, the more we need to watch ourselves and remind ourselves that there is nothing that we have that we haven’t received from the hand and by the will of God, who shows no partiality. As I move about the streets and sidewalks of the Denver metro area, I try to remind myself that God loves every person that I encounter with the same love He has for me, whether they are a homeless person on the sidewalk or a captain of industry driving a luxury car, and regardless of their worldview or political persuasion. God is pleased when we seek to grant to everyone the dignity of being an offspring of His with whom He is working.
Ben Sira, the author, then moves on to the temptation to become proud in searching and seeking for knowledge. We may start expounding and offering our opinion on things that we really don’t understand, things that are beyond our comprehension. We become arrogant and unteachable rather than asking questions of others and listening to the wisdom that God has imparted to others.
Finally, a humble person will be slow to anger and will seek to defuse and de-escalate tense and angry situations. They aren’t quick to defend or prove themselves. They also are attentive to the needs of those around them and seek to meet those needs as they are able. Their focus is not on themselves but on God and others.
The psalm selection fits in with the theme of humility. Here, the psalmist is exhorting us to praise God for His concern for those who are weak, mourning, abandoned, oppressed and needy. We can see that God possesses the virtue of humility Himself. Jesus, the ultimate revelation of the Father, described Himself as meek and lowly of heart. He went about doing good, having compassion on the multitudes, seeking the lost, restoring the broken and the downcast.
The writer of Hebrews contrasts the Israelites’ experience of God at Mount Sinai under the Old Covenant with our experience of God as believers in the Church under the New Covenant, of which Jesus is the mediator. I have experienced this new reality as never before in becoming a Catholic. This passage about approaching Mount Zion jumped out as a vivid description of what was happening as I approached and entered the Catholic Church and participated in the Mass. I was awestruck and humbled both by its glory and its accessibility. I found an access to God that was available to everyone who is willing to receive it through the Sacraments, the prayers, the Communion of the Saints and Angels. It was and is a taste of what awaits us in heaven and in the Mass; heaven comes down to us and dwells among us. When I walk through everyday life, I am not alone. I am surrounded by the hosts of heaven.
The Gospel Acclamation reveals that, as we seek to cultivate the virtue of humility, we are following Jesus, learning from Him and becoming more like Him.
Jesus, in the Gospel reading, bids us to follow Him, seeking out the lowest place and the lowliest people, just like our Father does. If we do this, then God Himself will be pleased, and we will be exalted at the resurrection. We won’t have to worry about exaltation going to our heads any more.
May God bless my brief reflections upon the readings for the benefit of those who read them.