October 23, 2016

Pentecost - Proper 25

SIRACH 35:12-17; PSALM 84:1-6; 2 TIMOTHY 4:6-8, 16-18; LUKE 18:9-14



Humility must be a prayerful light before the dawn of revelation.  It must an open posture in which we receive most directly the energy and messaging of the Divine.  I suppose humility must have the quality of breath or air, even though its name has more to do with earth and mass; humus.  Humility should have nothing to do with humiliation, because humility is light in its load whereas humiliation always brings devastation.  

Humility in the end must be about letting go.

Letting go of expectations.

Letting go of presumptions.

Letting go of false identities.

Letting go of notions about how things go, or ought to go, or should have gone.

Humility must be about letting go of what belongs to us.

Or letting go of the belief that anything is ever purely ours.

A trauma expert and child psychologist tells parents and educators of young people who have suffered abuse or neglect that when they have a problem with the way a child is acting, what they likely have is a problem with their own expectations of the child.

Humility must be receptiveness to curve balls, shocking news, unexpected success, or devastating outcomes.  Humility must be when we find ourselves compulsively, surprisingly, mending fences with our enemy.  Humility must be flexibility for the ups and downs of spiritual life.  And as Sr. Joan Chittister reminds us, in the spiritual life up is down and the down is up.  For St. Benedict said, “We descend by exaltation, and we ascend by humility.”

Surely humility must be about listening.  Like the he old clergyman in Marilyn Robinson’s novels, Gilead & Lila, who marries a drifter, a survivor, a once abandoned child raised on change from chores and potatoes hot from the coals.  The clergyman is the one who prays to God and preaches theology.  His wife, barely literate, with all the scars of childhood abandonment, is the one who understands none of her husband’s ministerial concepts in the abstract but rather is the one who can make them plain for him against the backdrop of real life lived.  He is desperate to know her.  But she carries so much shame from her life that she hardly speaks.  She for her preacher husband is the Bible in context.  And he spends years patiently waiting and listening for the occasional story or question or opinion that she musters out.

Humility must be like presidential candidates back stage at a fund raiser, genuinely connecting with a message of mutual respect and a request to work together.

Humility must be like the moment one hands off the canned goods or the dollar bill or the bag of clothes or the personal check to charity or to church.  This surrender moment - however risky or safe financially - however risky or safe emotionally - is a moment of openness before the spiritual dawn of relinquishment.  It is a way of saying, ‘Here I am.  Here we are together.  I will be with you.’ or ‘I will be among you.’  It is to know that in sharing we make ourselves kin to one another.  A community of letting go and sharing of what we have.  Be it a little.  Or a lot.