User’s Guide to Sunday
By Tom and April Hoopes
Sunday, Aug. 29, is the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle II).
Pope Benedict XVI will pray the Angelus at Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence, at noon.
For Labor Day, why not watch a movie that celebrates hard work? There are lots of movies that stress women who work. A few recent ones celebrate dads as providers. Pursuit of Happyness (check Kids-in-Mind.com and preview the movie to see what’s objectionable in it) is a great true story about a man’s commitment to work. Cinderella Man is about a dad willing to do what it takes to care for his family.
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29; Psalms 68:4-7, 10-11; Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24; Luke 14:1, 7-14
We celebrated Mother Teresa’s 100th birthday on Thursday, Aug. 26. Humility is one of the chief virtues she showed in her life. She said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” She also said, “Humble yourself or you will be humiliated.”
Those are great reasons to be humble. Today’s readings give three reasons to be humble.
First, because people will like you more.
“My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts,” says the first reading. “Take the lowest place,” says the Gospel. “Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.”
This reason to be humble might seem self-serving. In fact, it’s merely honest — with the honesty of humility. Those who assert themselves and try to be popular will meet with some success, perhaps, but they will also meet with much disappointment. That disappointment is itself the product of their pride: If you think you’re something special, you’re in for a surprise. Sooner or later, you’ll learn that you’re not really that special after all.
Second, be humble because you have nothing to prove.
The second reading lists the reasons you have nothing to prove: “You have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering … and God the judge of all … and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.”
One reason people assert themselves is that they feel unworthy. But Christians have no need to jockey for position on material, worldly terms. We have already gained more unmerited esteem and favor from God than we can ever hope to even mimic from the world. Who needs to keep up with the Joneses when Jesus has kept us up with him? A proper understanding of God’s regard for us should obliterate any self-esteem problems we might have.
The third reason to be humble: Because we have no earthly reason to be anything else.
“What is too sublime for you, seek not,” says the first reading, in Yoda-like phrasing. It continues, “Into things beyond your strength, search not.”
This has the same implication that the Book of Job has. Job argues with God about his difficult straits. God points out that Job can’t even understand a hippopotamus, let alone the ways of God, so he should learn to accept his place in the universe.
In case we are inclined to get a big head after that second reason to be humble, we should remember just how unmerited the grace of God is. As the Navis Pictures movie Bernadette of Lourdes puts it, “As we look up toward God, we are nothing; but as God looks down on us ... we are everything.”
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.