It’s common to think of up as good and down as bad. We prefer to be “up” rather than “down” and the one who is struggling is often encouraged not to look down but to keep their head up and their gaze upward.
That key word humble which features in today’s gospel is often misunderstood, perhaps because our perspective is too limited.
While a mountain-top moment refers to a positive experience, we know too that to go to the depth of a matter or to live deeply is even more positive.
In the same way we affirm someone when we say that they are “grounded.”
New Zealand poet James K. Baxter reflected that a great help to keeping our feet on the ground is to keep our hands in the soil, since (he adds) Adam was a gardener.
And just one more positive for the lower view: the electrical appliance that is “earthed” is safe to use.
In Jesus, God ‘came DOWN’ to earth. Too often we look for God in distant and elevated places when God is present and active in the ordinary down-to-earth hum-drum routine moments of our day and in the simplicity of our thoughts and ordinariness of our actions.
A priest of my home diocese of Christchurch gave a powerful teaching on humility when preaching at the Month’s Mind Mass for his friend Bishop Barry Jones four weeks after Barry’s death in 2016. Fr Kevin Clark died in September last year and his reflection on humility has a timeless quality and I am happy to be able to share it here:
“I always found it [humility] something of a puzzling sort of a virtue because it seemed to me a virtue in which we told lies about ourselves, “I am not very good, I’m pretty awful”… all of which is untrue.
“I love in that first chapter of Luke where the angel appeared to Our Lady… It is so hard for us to realise how much the people of Israel looked to the future, to the coming of the Messiah, this was their culmination which meant that some day some woman would give birth to the Messiah. Nobody would have greater role in the history of the world. And this young girl, young woman from Nazareth is told that she is the one. And she says that I can’t do that, I’m not married, but the angel said that this is God’s business so she says, “yes, all right.”
“I know the translations don’t say “yes all right”, but that is what she said – I am a servant of the Lord so yes, alright. That’s humility. That is no protest. There is no falseness at saying that someone else could do it better than me. She knew that she was the chosen one and therefore she said “yes, alright”.
- as you reflect on the words above, how is your attraction to live “humbly” growing?
- Thank you to all the FFF benefactors. It is a beautiful word: “The Latin roots of benefactor are bene, which means “well,” and facere, which means “to do” — literally, “to do well.” A benefactor does well by supporting (usually financially) a person or a good cause.” If you would like to become a benefactor of FFF please visit the SUPPORTING FFF page at this link.