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Humility keeps us grounded

Lk 14.11; Sir 3.18-20

Recently I read a work entitled Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. The cover blurb proclaimed, “How fungi make our worlds, change our minds, and shape our futures.” Normally I tend to be very sceptical about such trumpeting. After reading, I realised that I agreed. Very few of us have any sense how millions of fungi, in soils, in flora, and in our gut lead a hidden life of breaking down, transporting and transforming. Without them, human life would be impossible.

This led me to think again about Jesus’ praise of humility. (Lk 14.11) The word itself derives from the Latin humus, that is, the ground or soil. Christ gives his listeners a reminder how humility keeps us grounded. It is the virtue that roots us in reality, preventing us from toppling over.

To understand the impact of Jesus’ story about choosing places at a dinner party we need to be aware that status in Jewish society did not depend on wealth. Very few Jews were rich. It was social connections, correct clothing and terms of address that meant everything. Jesus, in his turn, points out how easily such roots can be wrenched out and then the biggest trees will tumble.

On the contrary, humility allows us to be ourselves, and not to resort to hiding, looking desperately for words and gestures of approval and praise. Humility is not weakness but true strength; it enables us to see the dignity of every person, no matter how lowly their rank or poor their grooming. It opens up the way to caring for everybody and to touch the heart of God. (Sir 3.18-20)    

22nd Sunday Year C1

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