TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles (ταπεινος) himself will be exalted
The author of our first reading – Jesus ben Sirach – was a scribe and teacher who lived in Jerusalem around 180 BC. His literary style was very much that of the earlier wisdom writings such as The Book of Proverbs. He, like them, was concerned about peoples’ interior attitudes which should be reflected in their outward behaviour: attitudes such as sincerity and humility.
Today’s Gospel also focuses on humility and challenges us to re-examine our ways of thinking and living. Interestingly, in both readings the teaching on humility concerns those who will hold or already hold positions of power in society: ‘The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself’ (Eccles. 3:18).
The English dictionary definition of what humility means is ‘not proud or arrogant.’ But humility, according to the thrust of our scriptural texts, means to be aware of both our human limitations and our inability to have all the answers and the presence of someone (God) who is greater than us and who is the source of power, strength and knowledge. It’s a word that is etymologically linked to the Latin word humus, meaning ‘earth’ or ‘soil’. Thus, just as the earth provides the conditions for growth, so too, humility creates the capacity for true development.
You might find it interesting to learn that the + in front of a bishop’s name isn’t a cross! It is the Greek letter τ (tau = ‘t’) the first letter of ταπεινος (tapeinos) … ‘humbly’, ‘humble of heart’. Sincerely,
τ Fr Philip