Luke 14:1, 7-14
Conduct Your Affairs With Humility by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
On a Sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.
He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, 'Give your place to this man,' and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, 'My friend, move up to a higher position.' Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Then he said to the host who invited him, "When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
God brought Mike Vida into my life when I was a seminarian serving at St. William of York Parish in the summer of 1984. He ran a hardware store on Route 1 not far from the parish in Stafford. He came to Masses and novenas in the evenings because severe arthritis kept him from getting out in the mornings. He came early to those events so he could get into the church without making a scene. I was there extra early to set up one evening and unexpectedly saw Mike’s entrance routine.
Mike was always hunched over and he walked slowly with a cane. That night, I saw him enter the narthex of the Church, pause and angle his body so that he could look up at the crucifix, and make a slow, reverent sign of the cross. This simple act was so beautiful that it caught my attention. Then, he ambled his way into the church. When he came to his favorite pew, he put his cane in his left hand grabbed the pew with his right, and somehow managed to genuflect before Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament. It seemed like it took forever. He shook from the strain (and the pain) the whole time he was genuflecting. Unable to get all the way back up, he plopped into the pew. This humble reverent act of love for God will be etched in my mind for the rest of my life.
Sirach, one of the great Old Testament books filled with the wisdom of God, exhorts us today, “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.”
I came to grow in my great respect and love for Mike Vida that summer. I would often stop by the hardware store just to say hello. I would make an extra effort to catch him after the novena and have a brief conversation with him. His faith was tangible. His humility was attractive. While Mike was not super talkative, I always felt uplifted and encouraged from being in his presence. I sensed as a young man that Mike had found favor with God.
Jesus praises the grace of humility in the Gospel today as well: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Jesus is teaching us that we can work with God and grow in the virtue of humility. We can humble ourselves. By praying for the grace to be humble, truly desiring it, imitating it in those holy souls that God sends into our lives, and regularly practicing acts of charity, we can develop this elusive virtue.
Mike Vida was a visible example of how humility starts with God and our faith in Him. When we know deep within our soul that we are handcrafted by God out of His personal love for us, it puts life into a certain perspective. When we accept the truth that we depend upon our Heavenly Father for our very existence (every breath we take, every smile we receive, every morsel of food we eat, every heartbeat we enjoy), we begin to laugh at our own pride. How can we be haughty when we know that all of our gifts, talents and successes flow from His loving hand? St. Paul asks: “What do you posses that you have not received?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) Mike Vida was gifted in many ways as a family man, businessman and Christian. He used those gifts to bless others and build the kingdom of God. We found out at the time of his death that he was an anonymous benefactor for a number of charities and projects, including the upkeep of the beautiful little plot of land on Route 1 marked by the large crucifix that memorializes the arrival of the Brent family to Virginia.
Humility begins with God and gently flows into all of our other relationships. This same faith empowers us to see everyone around us a beloved child of God, equally deserving of God’s blessings and love as I am. Our faith makes us realize that our gifts were given to us so that we might better serve our neighbor and build u a culture of life and love. This awareness of how we stand before God and neighbor stares in the face of the attitude of entitlement. Rather than thinking that we are entitled to respect, honor and a life of ease, we see ourselves as blessed so that we can share with others the bountiful blessings of God.
Humility is also a friend of truth. Humility invites us to be honest about our faults, weaknesses and sins. It keeps us on our knees, praying for God’s strength, mercy and assistance. At the same time, humility invites us to be honest about our gifts and talents as well. Humility demands that we discover them, cultivate them, and put them to use for the greater glory of God. The saints are humble because they know the source of their gifts, but also because they responded to God’s invitation to use their gifts to love and serve in extraordinary ways. St. Paul, St. John Bosco and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta were beautifully humble and yet achieved the heights of holiness and charity as they responded to God’s guidance and grace in their lives. Their humility did not keep them from such heights; rather it propelled them toward those heights.
Ben Sirach was indeed a wise man. He knew how critical humility is in the life of the believer. It opens us to the fullness of life in God, it makes our witness in the world more powerful and it brings us into favor with our God.
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