Humility is a major theme in the readings for this Sunday. From the opening line of the first reading from Sirach, “My Child, conduct your affairs with humility”, we can see God revealing Himself in a familiar way – through the lowest and least. God is encouraging us not to seek honor and praise, but rather to seek service, the role of a slave.
Humility is a common theme in scriptures and a powerful key to the spiritual life. Throughout salvation history, God seems to prefer the underdog – the poor, the widowed, the orphaned. We see this played out in His relationship with Israel, through the “younger son” stories of Jacob, Joseph, & King David. This is echoed in the Response Psalm, “God, in Your goodness, You have made a home for the poor.” If you’re struggling to fit in at school – if you’re bullied, if you’re mocked, if you’re rejected – this reading gives encouragement and hope that in your suffering you are close to God!
The second reading speaks of the glory that is due to God alone using triumphal images like “blazing fire” and “trumpet blasts” with the company of all the angels. The seat of honor is due to God and God alone. However, in the Gospel, Jesus does not desire a seat of honor. When invited to dine with a Pharisee, Jesus chastises those who seek out places of honor. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” It appears that Jesus does not take a seat of honor at the banquet, which is especially ironic because He would be the most honored guest in all of salvation history! If anyone deserves the place of honor it is Jesus!
The readings this Sunday fly in the face of much of modern society’s emphasis on looking good to other people. In a culture that seems to be obsessed with being tagged in Facebook, mentioned in a tweet, and shared or quoted online, Jesus is challenging us to do good deeds in secret. The gospel challenges us to not be the center of attention, but rather to give God the center of our attention, His due place of importance in our hearts. This week let us try to not seek out glory in vanities, but rather in the simplicity of living a humble life.