Archive for category Humility

John 13:1-15 The washing of the disciples’ feet

“With the celebration of Mass on the evening of Holy Thursday, “the Church begins the Easter Triduum and recalls the Last Supper in which the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, showing his love for those who were his own in the world, he gave his body and blood under the species of bread and wine offering to his Father and giving them to the Apostles so that they might partake of them, and he commanded them and their successors in the priesthood to perpetuate this offering” [Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts (Prot. 0) January 16, 1988, Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship)

Christ whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (cf. CCC 608).

By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end,” for greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 13:1; 15:13). In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men. Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his passion and death (cf. CCC 609).

Jesus gave the supreme expression of his free offering of himself at the meal shared with the twelve apostles “on the night he was betrayed” (Roman Missal, EP III; cf. Mt 26:20; 1 Cor 11:23). On the eve of his passion, while still free, Jesus transformed this last supper with the apostles into a memorial of his voluntary offering to the Father for the salvation of men: “This is my body which is given for you.” This is my blood of the covenant,which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 22:19; Mt 26:28; cf. 1 Cor 5:7).

The Eucharist that Christ institutes at the moment will be a memorial of his sacrifice (1 Cor 11:25). Jesus includes the apostles in his own offering and bids them to perpetuate it. By doing so, the Lord institutes his apostles as priests of the New Covenant (cf. CCC 611).

For the twelve apostles and all the believers alike there is only one perfect model of humility, service and love, of which others are simply a reflection: Jesus Christ. Paul himself must only be imitated because he imitates Christ (1 Co 4, 16; 11,1). This is the fundamental novelty: thanks to Jesus, Son of God made man, man is able to imitate God himself (E 5,1), Henceforth, man can imitate the example of the Lord and follow him doing the path of the humble love that made him offer up his own life (Jn 13,15; E5,2; 1 P2,21; 1 Jn 2, 16; 3,16 ); he can love his brethren as Jesus loved them (Jn 13,34; 15,12; Xavier Leon-Dufour Ed., Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Upd. Second ed., Example).

Jesus makes the mission of the (Suffering) Servant his own: a master meek and humble of heart (Mt 11,29), who announces salvation to the poor (Lk 4,18f), he is in the midst of his disciples “as one who served” (Lk 22,27), he, who is their Lord and their master (Jn 13,12-15); and he goes to the very limits of the demands of the love which inspires this service (Jn 13,11; 12-15) by giving his life for the redemption of the multitude of sinners (Mk 10,43ff; Mt 20,26ff). It is for this that, treated like a criminal (Lk 22,37), he dies on the cross (Mk 14,24; Mt 26,28), knowing that he will rise again, as it is written of the Son of Man (Mk 8,3 p; 9,31 p; Lk 18,3ff p; 24,44; cf. 53,10ff). If then he is the expected Messiah, the Son of Man does not come to re-establish a temporal kingdom, but to enter into his glory and to lead his people there by passing through the death of the Servant (Xavier Leon-Dufour Ed., Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Upd. Second ed., Servant).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus who is teacher and lord at the meal shared with his twelve apostles on the night he was betrayed scandalizes his disciples when he washes their feet. The task is reserved for the lowliest of slaves in the Jewish master households. This is how low Jesus sinks in obedience to his Father who wishes that men and women be saved (see 1 Tim 2:3-4).The washing of feet is really an anticipation of Jesus giving all on Calvary the next day at the same time his legacy, model and living example to follow: “Do you realize what I have done. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one’s another feet: I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (cf Jn 13: 12-15).

History has shown us that person in power and authority is always tempted by pride, arrogance, honor, fame, wealth and corruption. Conscious of all these, St. Gregory the Great, who was pope from 590 to 640, adopted a title which has been applied to all Peter’s successors, a relevant reminded of Jesus’ teaching. The title is: “servos servorom” which means “the servant of servants of God” or “the least of all servants.”

Concerning the title, there is a story told written by Fr. Gerry Orbos about the lovable good old Pope John XXIII. On his way to Vatican, he made a surprise visit to a convent where nuns of the Holy Spirit Congregation resided.

The whole community led by their superior came out to meet the Pope. “And who are you?”  asked the Pope to the religious nun who was the first to greet him. The sister who was excited and nervous, blurted our, “Your Holiness, I am the mother superior of the Holy Spirit!”

“Mother Superior of the Holy Spirit?” said the Pope amused. “Lucky are you sister, I am only the servant of all servants of God.

This story reminds us all especially those who are persons in authority and power that authority  do not consists in dominion

 

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Luke 14:1, 7-14 CONDUCT OF INVITED GUESTS AND HOSTS

There is a story told about Paul Cezanne who ranks among the world’s greatest artists. He painted for thirty five years before receiving any recognition. When an art dealer finally discovered him and exhibited his paintings in Paris, Cezanne was overwhelmed. Entering the exhibition with his son, he could not believe what he saw. “Look!” he said to his son, “I can’t believe it! They’ve even framed my paintings!”

The theme of today’s gospel is GREATNESS IN HUMILITY. Humility is such a rare and weird virtue. Rare, because as John Selden, a British jurist and statesman, said: “Humility is a virtue all preach, none practise, and yet everybody is content to hear. The master thinks it good doctrine for his servant, the laity for the clergy, and the clergy for the laity.”  Weird because as Louis Evely described it, “the moment we think we have it, we lost it.”

Humility is one of the main pillars of the Christian life. “If you ask me”, St. Augustine says, “what is the essential thing in the religion and discipline of Jesus Christ, I shall reply: first humility, second humility and third humility” (“Letter 118”). In a similar story, when St. Bernard was asked what the four cardinal virtues were, he replied: “Humility, humility, humility and humility.”

What is humility? What does it entail? Based on today’s gospel’s account, greatness in humility entails three things:

First, put yourself last. Who is the greatest in God’s kingdom? The one who is humble and lowly of heart— who instead of asserting their rights willingly empty themselves of pride and self-seeking glory by taking the lowly position of a servant or child. “If you ask me”, St. Augustine says, “what is the essential thing in the religion and discipline of Jesus Christ, I shall reply: first humility, second humility and third humility” (“Letter 118”).

Unlike the proud and the arrogant, a disciple should not “…think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment…” (Rom. 12:3). He must be prepared to take the last, least and lowest place. He must be ready and willing to become a servant of servants of all. It teaches us to prefer others over ourselves (Rom. 12:10). It is knowing our true position before God. It is not self-abasement or demeaning one’s self. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Humility is necessary to be a disciple of Jesus (Matt. 18:3-4).

Second, be the servant of all.   Greatness consists in humble service.  “If any man would be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). Jesus own teaching and example is a lesson for all of us. The humility of Jesus is described in Philippians 2:5-8, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (NIV).  Christ whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (cf. CCC 608). As Christian, we are bound to do same – to be a servant of servants of all.

Third, to receive the seemingly insignificant human being with great love. God takes special care of the weak and will punish those who harm them and reward those who take care of them. To receive, love and serve a little child is to receive, love and serve Christ himself and the One who sent him.  “Whosoever shall receive one of such little children in my name receives me, and whosoever receives me, receives not me, but him that sent me” (Mk 26-37).

Receiving a little child in Jesus’ name includes the unselfish care and support given for the poor and the needy who cannot repay us of our hospitality and generosity. Receiving, serving and loving the poor and the needy is serving and loving Jesus himself, hence, deserving of heavenly reward. Blessed are you when you “fed the hungry Christ, gave drink to the thirsty Christ, received the homeless Christ, clothed the naked Christ and visited the sick and the imprisoned Christ” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta) because you will inherit the kingdom prepared for you by my Father from the foundation of the world.

Humility is not only rare and weird, as I said earlier, but it is also difficult to conquer. As St. Francis de Sales said: “Pride – human pride dies 15 minutes after your own death.”  History has shown us that person in power and authority is always tempted by pride, arrogance, honor, fame, wealth and corruption. Conscious of all these, St. Gregory the Great, who was pope from 590 to 640, adopted a title which has been applied to all Peter’s successors, a relevant reminded of Jesus’ teaching. The title is: “servos servorom” which means “the servant of servants of God” or “the least of all servants.”

Jesus in washing his disciples’ feet shows us the way we should walk, if we are to be like him, if we desire to follow him, not only to the cross at Good Friday, but to the glory of Easter Sunday. Wish to be the greatest of all? Put yourself last, be the servant of all, and receive the least, last and the lowest of society!

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