22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Simham)
Lion becomes the lamb
I want you to imagine something. Suppose you are invited to a wedding party. There you see people running here and there, making every effort to find the best seats or places of honour. And someone runs up to you and literally grabs the chair from you and sits on it. How will you react? Even though you will be embarrassed I am sure you will not quarrel with him. At the most you may just give a sarcastic smile to him and go away. And I am also pretty sure that you will not go on to the stage and pick up the mike and give a lecture to them on humility. Will you? But that is exactly what Jesus is doing in today’s gospel. To the embarrassment of many he walks up to the stage and asks them to be humble: giving a lecture to the guests and a lecture to the hosts. Why is he so unkind and uncharitable towards those people who are after all human and week? Well dear friends the virtue of humility is so important for salvation that Jesus thinks that it is essential to teach them about humility then and there. Fall of man and salvation from Jesus directly depend on the pride and humility of man. In other words if the whole history of salvation can be summed up into one sentence, it is this: “Salvation is nothing but human pride being conquered by divine humility.” Let me explain.
They say ‘Pride goes before every fall’. So it was with the fall of our first parents. They wanted to be like God. Somebody who had the same ambitions like them and was thrown away (I.e. Lucifer) tempted and told them in disguise that if they eat the forbidden fruit they’ll be like God. With that prideful desire of being equally knowledgeable like God, they ate the fruit. But what they got as a result of their human pride was death and annihilation. Their eyes were opened only to know that they were naked and vulnerable.
Now, to redeem these prideful creatures who brought upon themselves this curse, God had to look for a man of humility to begin his act of saving mankind and through his descendants to gather all nations to himself. He found Abraham. He tested him and found him worthy and promised that through his offspring all nations will be blessed. (Genesis 22:18) But his generation turned out to be the most head-strong or Stiff-necked people.(Exodus 32:9) He made them to wander in wilderness for 40 years to teach them humility and obedience.(Deuteronomy 8:2-3) He sends them to exile and shattered them among the nations but still he found them to be as they are; Head strong and stiff-necked. That’s what we the humans are. For the salvation to be possible, this pride of man has to be healed. Who can do it? It is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, the Lion of Judah. He alone can heal this great cancer of men.
So, what does he do? The Lion of Judah becomes the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. St. Paul in his letter to Philippians describes beautifully what the Son has done. Even though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped; But He humbled Himself to become man. “He humbled Himself so much that He was ready to die a shameful death on the cross”;(C.f. Philippians 2:6-7) To negate the pride of man who wanted become like God, God became man and died a humble death which again was the result of man’s pride. His humility gave His death its value, and so became our redemption. And now, the salvation He imparts is nothing less and nothing else than a communication of His own life and death, His own disposition and spirit, His own humility, as the ground and root of our relation to God and His redeeming work. Jesus Christ took our place and fulfilled our destiny, as a creature, by His life of perfect humility. His humility is our salvation. His salvation is our humility.
That is why he said in Matthew 18:4 ‘whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’ And in the gospel today he repeats it saying “whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
So the lesson is clear. The gate to heaven is narrow. And the key to the narrow gate is “Humility.” But the great challenge today is how to practice this virtue in our present day situation. Nowadays humility seems to be a virtue for losers and those who can’t achieve. It seems no one gets ahead in business by being humble, but rather by selling himself, even if it means exaggerating one’s qualities. In this hostile situation showing that humility is our strength not our weakness and it is the secret of success for us Christian. We need to prove that our humility is not our weakness but it is our virtue and Christian identity. That is the challenge lying ahead of us. Remember that humility is mother of salvation says St. Bernard.
Fr. Showreelu Simham