(See the readings for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 1)
Every year leaders from the technology, entertainment and design industries gather for the annual TED Conference. The meeting pulls together very powerful and influential people in the world today to hear short talks and to speak about the path ahead for the world.
In August 2017 the attendees were surprised by a special guest via video conference connection. The guest was Pope Francis. He spoke of the “revolution of tenderness” that he ties to humility.
In this talk to some of the most powerful people in our society today he said: “Tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility.”
He continues: “Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you and you will ruin the other. There is a saying in Argentina: ‘Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.’ You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness.”
The pope received a standing ovation from the attendees. The Holy Father’s words are a good reminder for all of us of how essential the path of humility is for all of us, no matter what our job, position, vocation or status is in the world.
Jesus tells us the parable of the wedding banquet in Sunday’s liturgy. You may recall that before telling the parable Jesus had noticed people jockeying for position — so that they might get the best seats, the seats of honor. At the end of the parable he gives the lesson: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
He then goes on to tie humility with love when he says: “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
The one who is humble loves freely, from his or her heart, and cares for those in most need treating them as his or her brother or sister, as a friend.
The first reading for Sunday’s liturgy likewise stresses the importance of humility. Sirach writes: “My child, 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.”
The foundation for humility is recognizing that everything we have is a gift from God. His gracious love created us and the world we live in. We recognize this in the responsorial psalm as we say: “God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.” The humble person recognizes that we are the “poor” for everything we have is a gift from God, the source of all that is good.
He also gives us talents and abilities, both as individuals and in community, to use these gifts for the benefit of all. Great things are achieved. Men and women participate in the achievements and advances, but the ultimate source is the grace of God. Humility helps us to recognize this and then to see ourselves as servants — servants of God, of the good and of each other.
Jesus calls us to be humble. The humble soul is fertile ground for love. We are reminded of this especially today when we see so much violence, hatred and anger in our society, not just the world out there but even in our local communities. We long for a better world for our families and children. We hope for a better tomorrow.
When Pope Francis concluded his TED talk he reminded the attendees and he reminds us that the path we seek is that of the humble servant. “The future of humankind,” he said, “isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us.’”
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