“My Son, Conduct Your Affairs with Humility.”
- a reflection on Mark 10:35-45 (NAB)
- By Larry T
At a social gathering a few weeks ago my friend Lois was describing a recent trip to Minneapolis when before she could finish, another friend, Sharon, energetically interrupted her with “Well, that’s just like . . .”, and launched into a description of her own recent trip to Chicago. Poor Lois wasn’t finished, but settled back into her chair with a sigh. Just how many times do we hear, “WELL, THAT’S JUST LIKE . . .”? Is it a lack of humility and patience that causes us to trump someone else with, “WELL, THAT’S JUST LIKE . . .”?
I’ve often thought that our Holy Bible could be retitled The Book of Humility because so much of it concerns humility – either having it, or not having it. Was it the lack of humility that caused the Hebrews to be stiff-necked? Was it the lack of humility that caused the Pharisees and Scribes to ignore the word of God as taught by Jesus? And how many times did our Lord preach humility and extol the virtues of the humble?
The gospel reading for October 21st, the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, is from Mark 10:35-45:
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
36 He replied, “What do you wish (me) to do for you?”
37 They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
39 They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
40 but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
41 When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
42 Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
43 But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
44 whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
45 For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
At least part of this reading concerns the obvious pride and lack of humility of James and John. And allegorically it might address the lack of humility of all mankind. In verses 43 and 44 Jesus gave his disciples a quick, but direct lesson in being of service to others.
How many of the Pharisees heeded Jesus’ example of humility as related in the gospel of Luke?
8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
9 and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.
10 Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
-LK 14:8-11 NAB
Was our Lord underscoring the words in chapter 3:17-18 of The Book of Sirach written two-hundred or so years earlier?
17 My son, conduct your affairs with humility,
and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts
18 Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.
But what is the Christian definition of humility? Father John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary defines it as:
The moral virtue that keeps a person from reaching beyond himself. It is the virtue that restrains the unruly desire for personal greatness and leads people to an orderly love of themselves based on a true appreciation of their position with respect to God and their neighbors. Religious humility recognizes one's total dependence on God; moral humility recognizes one's creaturely equality with others. Yet humility is not only opposed to pride; it is also opposed to immoderate self-abjection, which would fail to recognize God's gifts and use them according to his will.
Was Jesus telling me to always treat others with respect and dignity? While in conversation with another person do I live it by patiently allowing them to complete a sentence before I begin speaking? This Sunday when I approach the ambo to read Holy Scripture to the assembly do I remember that my task is to read God’s word to his people in a meaningful way, rather than impress the assembly with my speaking ability? Do I always remember to open the car door for my beautiful wife? Is letting my friend Lois tell her story about the Minneapolis trip without interrupting being humble? Just how many opportunities in everyday life do we have to practice humility? Wow, I’ve got a lot of things to work on!
Blessings to All