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Bible Reflections View Comments

Give God the Glory
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, September 1, 2013
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The buzz was almost immediate: “He lives in an apartment in Buenos Aires.... He cooks his own meals.... He takes the bus to work.” As soon as Pope Francis was elected, details about his life as Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina were in the news and on social media websites. In the days and weeks following the election, one act after another pointed to the pope’s humility. He models a simple way of life and encourages others in the church to do the same.

Today’s Gospel is one of Jesus’ most extended comments on the virtue of humility. The society of Jesus’ day depended a great deal on status and honor. People were in relationship to one another according to strict rules of class, occupation, and conduct. This was far more than a question of the arranged seating we might experience at a formal dinner.

Luke frames the parable Jesus tells by setting the scene for us. He tells us Jesus is at the home of one of the leading Pharisees and “the people there were observing him carefully.” Jesus knows this and turns their observations back on them. He chides them for seeking positions of honor, suggesting that they instead will be shamed by someone more important than they perceive themselves to be.

Jesus is talking to the climbers, the pushy ones, the people who are already abusing the little power they have in a bid to get even more status, more power. They’re the ones who don’t mind stepping over other people to get ahead.

Jesus teaches again and again that the last will be first, not as a way to encourage them to push forward and get ahead of the rest, but as a reassurance that it’s not the pushy people who get their way in the end, even though it might seem to be the case in the short term.

In an ironic twist, stories such as this one at times have been used by those in power to keep people lower down on the ladder in their place. It’s not surprising that the world was astounded by the signs that Pope Francis was such a personally humble man who declined any appearance of pomp and exaltation. And there were those who accused him of “pauperism,” pretending to a poverty that wasn’t genuine.

The virtue of humility too often has been preached to people who already had no status—and as a result, no self-esteem—and it just made them feel worse about themselves and willing to let others push them around. Jesus was talking to the leaders, those who had plenty of status and weren’t afraid to trade on it. The pope, like Jesus before him, pointed out that his example was for his fellow cardinals, bishops, and priests, those who might be tempted to accept the social marks of importance, all the little perks that come with status in society.

True humility is not about letting others push us around. Neither is it running ourselves down or being falsely modest about what we can do. It’s about realizing that who we are in relationship to one another depends solely on who we are in relationship to God. It’s about recognizing that the gifts we have and the recognition that comes to us rightly belongs to God. We will accept ourselves and those around us as truly equal in God’s eyes.


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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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