Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C
[Sirach 3:17-20, 28-29; Psalm 68; Hebrews 12: 18-19. 22-24a; Luke 14: 1, 7-14]
Over the last while we have all been suffering the effects of rising prices in the market. Everything from gas to groceries has become more expensive. In economic terms we refer to this as inflation. Because it causes great hardship for many, we feel the need to get it under control.
Our Scripture readings today deal with another form of inflation, one far more serious than that which is at play in the marketplace. They warn us against inflation of the ego, what is otherwise known as pride. While market inflation attacks the pocketbook, that of the ego corrupts the soul. This renders the contention against pride of far greater consequence than the struggle to control prices. What, precisely, are the sacred texts teaching us?
When faced with rising prices, we often respond with a change in lifestyle, marked by the practice of restraint. We may look a lot more closely at prices on the grocery shelf, drive less, or postpone the big-ticket purchases. God’s Word today teaches that the struggle against pride likewise necessitates a change in lifestyle, but marked in this case by the practice of humility. This is what Jesus himself is admonishing us to do when he says to choose the lower place, or to act in such ways as to be mindful not of oneself but of others. We also hear an ancient echo of this from the sacred author, Sirach, who encourages us to perform our tasks with humility.
The practice of humility begins with a right understanding of what it means to be humble. For this we need look no further than to Jesus himself. He did not only admonish us to humility; he also demonstrated it by his own example. He, the eternal Son of God, emptied himself in humility to become one of us; he was born in a stable; he associated with sinners and outcasts; and he accepted that lowest of all places, the Cross. In all of this Jesus shows that humility is essentially this: peaceful and trusting acceptance of the truth.
As Son of God Incarnate, Jesus knew and accepted the truth that he was entirely dependent upon God the Father, who loved him beyond measure and would provide for his every need. He knew and accepted the truth that what matters is God’s saving purpose, not human desire. He knew and accepted the truth that everything good is God’s gift, in the light of which there is no room for boasting. He knew and accepted the truth that God shows no partiality, that His love is poured out in equal measure upon everyone, thus bestowing an equivalent dignity upon each and every person.
For us, then, for us who are called by our Baptism to be followers of Jesus, the practice of humility means that we acknowledge at all times the truth that God alone is God and we are not, and that we live peacefully from this truth and all that flows from it. Pride is contrary to this truth. It arrogates to oneself the place of God. It incites us to take personal credit for accomplishments and possessions; to glory in achievements; to minimize personal defects while pointing out those of others; to consider ourselves somehow superior to or better than others; and to presume that we can shape our own lives and even determine our own identity and destiny over and against God’s purpose. In its essence, pride is rebellion against God, a refusal to accept our limited human nature and our complete dependence upon God’s wisdom and providence. For this reason, the Church has always taught that pride is the gravest of sins and the mother of all others, and that we must therefore strive always against it.
Here humility recognizes that we cannot grapple against pride by our own efforts. That in itself would be prideful. Rather, in our weakness we need the grace of God to overcome it. When market inflation hits us, we look to the Bank of Canada and the community of economists to ward it off. In the struggle against ego inflation, we turn to one person only, to Jesus Christ, and specifically to his mercy.
We do precisely that this morning by coming to the Eucharist, the banquet to which the Lord himself invites us. He knows that each of us, in our own way and in a manner that perhaps he alone can see, is poor, crippled, lame and blind, absolutely unable to repay the Lord for his goodness and mercy towards us. In an act of ineffable generosity and wondrous humility, Jesus renders himself present in the bread and wine transformed into his true Body and Blood. As we receive him in communion, may the grace of his mercy enable us to live humbly as he did, living peacefully within the parameters of truth: the truth of God and the truth of ourselves.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
St. Joseph’s Basilica
August 28th, 2022