Homily from the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C
Actually, I put in "Rudy" because the Gospel today reminded me of a great line from the movie. It's from a scene where Rudy is facing his last chance to get accepted into Notre Dame and he's sitting in Church with Fr. Cavanaugh, a priest who's taken Rudy under his wing. Rudy is desperate and he asks Fr. Cavanaugh if there's anything he can do. Fr. Cavanaugh replies, "Son in 35 years of religious studies, I've come up with only two, hard, incontrovertible facts: there is a God... and I'm not him." What a great statement of humility.
Today's readings are about humility. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to avoid seeking places of honor; instead seek the lower place.
The word "humble" comes from the Latin word "humus" which means "earth," "soil," or ground." If you've ever eaten the food humus, you may have noticed that it looks like dirt or sandy-colored mud. That's one way of understanding humility - to be lowly like dirt.
However, I think a fuller meaning of the word humble means to know who you really are in relation to God. That's what Fr. Cavanaugh's quote is all about.
If you want to know who you really are in relation to God, read Genesis 2:7. It begins, "The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground..." Sounds like our Latin definition of humble doesn't it? The clay of the ground... humus... earth, soil, ground.
But verse 7 continues: "and [God] blew into [the man's] nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being."
Being humble is not acting as though one were dirt. Rather, being humble is understanding that without God, that's all we are: dirt. Without his breath of life within us, we are just clay of the ground. That's what it means to know who you are in relation to God.
Successful people are often called "self-made men." That's a very dangerous way of looking at oneself. None of us are self-made. We are God-made men and women. Everything we have comes from Him. Everything we achieve is because of Him.
We should take time today, and everyday, to understand this; to be humble. To take a look at ourselves for who we really are, which we will only see when we look at ourselves in relation to God.
How do we do this? Do what the people who are dining with Jesus in today's Gospel do: "the people there were observing [Jesus] carefully." Observe Jesus carefully. Observe, especially, Jesus' humility.
Observe Jesus' humility in the manger at Bethlehem. The Son of God lowered himself to become a helpless infant born of a poor carpenter and a teenage mother; and slept in a manger where animals feed, so that he would become the food of mankind.
Observe Jesus' humility in his childhood at Nazareth. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus was obedient to Mary and Joseph.
Observe Jesus' humility in his baptism. He had no need of sacramental grace. But nevertheless, he wanted to show us the first step of our salvation. So he stood on the shore, side-by-side with sinners.
Observe Jesus' humility in his passion and death when the King of Kings, the Savior of the World, though he did no wrong, accepted our wrongs unto himself so that we might be saved.
Observe Jesus' humility here at this Eucharist when he makes himself truly present to us under the appearance of the humble elements of ordinary bread and wine.
And let Jesus observe you, just as he observed the guests at the banquet. He was "noticing how they were choosing places of honor at the table." Let Jesus observe you in every moment of every day. Let him see you in your grace-filled moments and let him see you in your moments of pride and arrogance. It's in those moments, our moments of weakness, when we become aware of his presence, that we realize how foolish our pride and arrogance are.
In a few moments, we will have the opportunity to observe Jesus and allow him to observe us when his Body and Blood are lifted up before us; when he, who was humbled so much for our sake, is exalted. And we will say, as we kneel humbly before him: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."
Another way of understanding this response is "Lord, without you, I am but dirt; but only breath into me your Spirit of life, and I will be humbled. I will know who I really am in relation to you."