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Growing in humility

GOD'S WORD TODAY - Jonjee C. Sumpaico, S.J. () - August 29, 2010 - 12:00am

There are two movements in the Gospel reading of this Sunday which are important reminders for us as we grow in Christ’s love.

The first movement reminds the reader to refrain from sitting at places of honor. It asks the person to consider that if he wants to make himself important and engages in self-promotion, he will always run the danger of losing the very reason of his self-directed act.

Filipinos are good at this. In fact, during Sunday Masses, it seems that the back pews of the church are filled-up more easily as compared to its front areas. It becomes quite odd to see that the church entrances are blocked with people while seats are still available inside. Even at gatherings or parties, the more preferred seated areas by most people seem to be the areas farthest from the celebrant - the areas closest to exit or areas where one may find himself “fitting through the cracks.”

One can only generalize that in the portrayed shyness of our people, being quiet and avoiding making a scene has been a comfortable, handed-down cultural tradition. Older generations have taught their younger generations not to call attention to themselves. It is an act of propriety that keeps the peace and the community intact. We call this trait as “hiya” in Filipino or “ulaw” in Visayan. A person who does not value this is frowned upon and is considered out of place. He is branded as “walang hiya.”

The second movement that the Gospel teaches us poses more of a challenge as those who prefer to stay at the back are invited to come up front, be close to the host, and play a more active part in the gathering. In the parable that Jesus narrated, the host asks the person who is seated at the lower place to have a more active part in the celebration.

It is in this movement where we may be able to see the double-edged character of the Filipino value of “hiya.” Usually, when the people who prefer to stay at the back are invited to come up front, one would see hesitant behavior from them. They would not move and would wait for a second or even a third invitation to move up.

We become familiar with the reply, “It’s okay. I’m fine here. No need to bother me.”

With an attitude like this, the humility that was portrayed in the first movement becomes false. And by doing such an act of not accepting the invitation of the host, not only is one put into bad light, but the host as well begins to have a difficult time with his guests. People who thrive in this act are seen as “spoiled sports.”

 So what are we to do then? What would be a good guide to see whether our own acts of humility are real or false? Being humble requires a certain degree of honesty. It asks for a constant attitude of moving away from self-promotion. In the case of today’s Gospel, the action of self-promotion for the first movement is to sit up front. In the second movement, the act of self-promotion is to remain at the quiet and lower places of the gathering. The best thing to do then is to do the opposite. For the first movement, it is to refrain from staying upfront. For the second movement, it is accepting the invitation of the host. This practice is what Saint Ignatius of Loyola would describe as “agere contra.”

It is important for us then to have an act of introspection in our lives. As being humble stems from being truthful to our desires and fears, we are then asked to look at the motivations that drive us. What do we fear? What do we desire? It is good practice that we are aware of these things as this enables us to appreciate the true values that Jesus’ Good News brings.

 The prayer, “Litany of Humility” written by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val, may be a good start in this task of introspection. Pray it slowly and reflectively as you live the day. Most of all, may God bless you.

“O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

DELIVER DESIRE FEAR GOOD NEWS GRACE JESUS LITANY OF HUMILITY MOVEMENT OTHERS
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