We tend to live our life in ‘compartments’, wearing different coats and behaving differently depending on what we are doing and who we are with. We are somewhat different as the employee in the office and the family man at home, and perhaps most conspicuously as the believer in church.
The biggest challenge most of us have is in trying not to separate our faith life from our worldly life. Most times we fail. Once a week on a Sunday, we profess our belief in God and all that the Church teaches and ask for “thy kingdom come” and promise “thy will be done”. At the end of that one holy hour, we jump out of the faith life compartment and drive away in our secular lifestyle compartment.
Today’s hour calls us “to conduct your affairs in humility” (today’s readings); to intermix our secular life with the faith quality of “humility”. It does not call us to abandon our secular life but that it should not be lived separate from our faith life. In IT jargon, our ‘faith life’ should be the operating system on which our ‘secular life’ is run, with ‘humility’ as the essential software application.
Humility is our first quality; we are born naked highlighting it. At birth, we are totally dependent on God; life given by God. So to speak, we are 100% in our faith compartment. But grow we must. As we grow and progress in the world, our faith life must grow in a directly proportionate relationship with our worldly life. However for most of us we experience an inversely proportionate growth; secular lifestyle taking us away from faith.
We are constantly reminded about how we are to live, and our end goal beyond earthly treasures. “The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly, and then you will find favour with the Lord”. As we grow in this world, we wear more and more identities covering over our base layer. The ‘greater’ among us can become so thick in wear that we can no longer feel our base layer of ‘humility’.
When we don’t feel it, we “cannot make your way to the lowest place and sit there”. Some of us are already there. These are people with one layer over their base layer: the poor, the marginalised, people at the lower rungs of society’s status ladder and those whose faith life is full.
For the more common among us, not that we are bad people, we struggle being distracted by the world and its attractions. Again, doing well in this world is actually our responsibility. Each of us are blessed by God with gifts and talent. We are damned if we just bury our talent in the ground and sit at the lowest place. We are called to use our gift and talent wisely, and in consideration for the people around us, especially those who have less than us in material and status. Humility in acknowledging that ‘all comes from God’ is key.
When we lose humility, we lose our belief in God. We forget we were born helpless. We become self-made people with thick layers of coats.
When we use our God-given talents, we are rewarded on earth but we will also find heavenly treasures. When we do well, we can afford more of life’s luxuries and life can become a party. But “when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again”.
Being humble leads us to being virtuous. Humility helps us to acknowledge God as our creator and accept his plan for humanity; that we must journey this life to allow God’s love to flow through us and impact the lives of those around us. With faith as our operating system, we are urged to incorporate mission (this flowing of love) and community (these lives around us) into the operating manual of how we live our earthly life.
It’s OK to grow in stature and have a big watch on our wrist, but let that watch remind us to give time to mission and community. It’s OK to have a big position at work but let that also lead to us to having a position in ministry. It’s OK to drive a big car or be driven in one, but let that remind us of God’s daily blessings, and that we must be driven to help Him bless others.
They say that nice, humble guys finish up last. It is true that we may not exalt ourselves to a life partying with this world’s elite, but we will be assured that we will live for eternity.
(Door of Humility – Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem – Going in on bended knees, humbly, to enter into the presence of God)
22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time