by Noel E. Bordador
“The beginning of pride is to forsake the Lord; the heart has withdrawn from its Maker
-(Sirach 10: 12)
For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted
Humility is the main theme today. The meaning of the word “humility,” like the word “love,” differs from person to person that it would be best to define today what the word means in Christian faith. Let me begin by saying that humility is not the same thing as humiliation. The Christian faith does not condone humiliation. Humility is not about treating ourselves as if we have little or no worth. Sometimes, we often hear others define humility as a denial of legitimate physical, emotional or spiritual needs of the self. Treating ourselves with either indifference or contempt and allowing ourselves to be treated with disrespect or abuse are not a mark of Christian humility. There is a beautiful Jewish saying, “Thousands of angels go before each human person, crying out loud “Make way, make way for the Image of God. Make way, make way for the Image of God.” Human beings are of infinite worth to God, that God has bestowed upon us an incalculable worth and beauty, each one of us an image of God. Therefore, to believe we have no worth, to believe we can lose our worth is not faithful to Christian belief. We are a mirror of God.
But a mirror is a mirror only because it reflects a thing it captures. The identity of the mirror is derived precisely in its relationship to the object it mirrors. Likewise, to say we are an image of God, to say that we are a mirror of God means that our identity as human beings is derived in relationship to God who we image and mirror. When we depart from God, we fall away from that likeness and image. “The beginning of pride is to forsake the Lord; the heart has withdrawn from its maker.” (Sirach 10:12) When we withdraw our hearts and souls from God, when we abandon God, then we are said to tarnish the image or break the mirror, and what makes us truly human comes to disintegrate. Humility, which is the opposite of pride, is about acknowledging God as the very Source and Sustainer of our life and our life’s purpose without whom there is only disintegration for us. Humility is acknowledgement of our need for God in our lives, that we are not the center of our lives. God is. Pride is to make our lives centered solely on us; humility is about God being the Center of one’s being.
All of us have learned at a very early age that life is not centered upon us. We’ve been shaped to believe that to exist and life effectively, we must live with others with mutuality and reciprocity. Humility is about acknowledging that though I am an image of God, so are others. Yes, each one of us is a unique expression of God’s love, that each one of us has a unique walk with God. Each one of us have given a certain set of gifts and skills for our use to live and love. But that uniqueness and whatever gifts we may possess are not meant to be interpreted as superiority over others. There is no room for boasting. You heard it said today, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and the humble ones will be exalted.” (Luke 14: 11) Humility then is about openness to others. Humility then is an attitude of hospitality towards those we meet in life. This is actually the point of the passage from the Hebrews. The person you meet in the road of life might be an angel of God, meaning humility is about having a posture of reverence towards another human person, reverence towards another human being. And that’s not just people you know or love or love to rub elbows with. The Gospel is very clear today that the humility that is called forth from us is to be shown also to strangers, perhaps people we rather not associate with. I know that’s hard at times. As you know, I manage a small unit and there is one person who I feel has made it her life mission to be a pain in the neck. There have been so many times when I really want to go to her and just take her by the collar and shake her and say “What’s the matter with you?” and say things I can’t say in this pulpit. But of course that would not only be unprofessional, but I do believe that one ought not cross a certain line of human discourse that would seek to diminish the worth of another human being. Humility insists upon us to approach everybody with an eye to the infinite worth of the person before us. We have almost have to be circumspect in our demeanor, our thoughts, our feelings and speech in our relationships with others. This is even true when we are in position of authority. Our power does not give us license in any way to act that would seek to diminish the esteem of another human being. Humility as an attitude of openness, of welcoming presence and reverence towards another human person who is- like you and me, an image of God.
©2019 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a queer Episcopal priest in the Philippines. He runs Nazareth House, a Catholic Worker House of Hospitality for persons with HIV/AIDS in Manila.
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