Sunday, June 12, 2005
LUKE 14:1, 7-14
As he rides along in the darkness, he suddenly hears a voice shout: "Stop! Dismount! Pick up some stones! Put them in your pocket. Tomorrow at sunrise you will be sad and glad."
The voice sounded with authority as if it should be obeyed, so the horseman dismounted, picked up several stones, and put them in his pocket. Then he rode on.
About an hour later, the horseman heard the same voice. Once again it gave the same command: "Stop! Dismount! Pick up some stones! Put them in your pocket. Tomorrow at sun rise you will be sad and glad." Again the horseman obeyed and rode on.
Then an hour later, as the horseman was about to descend into the great valley, the same thing happened. And again he obeyed.
Then the horseman began his descent into the great valley. The path was steep and dangerous. Soon the stones in his pocket began to pinch his leg and cause him pain. So he began to pull them out one by one and throw them away.
Finally, about sunrise the next morning, the horseman arrived at the other side of the valley. As he did, he reached into his pocket to throw away the last stone, because it is causing him great pain.
As he took the stone into his hand, he noticed that it felt strange. The horseman looked at it and saw that it had changed into a diamond. At that moment he was both sad and glad. He was sad that he had thrown away all the other stones, but he was glad that he, at least, had kept this one.
That story, of course, is a parable about life. The plain stands for childhood, when we are told to do this or that – without being told why. For example, we are told to be honest. We are told to be truthful. We are told to be generous. We are told to learn self- control. If we do these things, someday we will be glad.
The stones that the horseman picked up and put into his pocket stand for the virtues of honesty, truthfulness, generosity, and self- discipline. We acquire these by following the commands of our parents and our teachers.
The steep valley stands for adult life, when these virtues are tested severely. Then we are tempted to throw them away, as the horseman threw away the stones when they began to pinch and to pain him.
We say to ourselves: "Why be honest, when others cheat? Why be truthful, when others lie? Why be generous when others are selfish? Why be disciplined when others do as they like?" Every adult gets temptations like these. And many adults give in to the temptations.
This brings us to an important question. What is one stone or virtue that we should never throw away? What is the one virtue that we should keep, even if we throw away all the others?
One elderly woman gave this answer to that question: "The one virtue you should never throw away is the virtue of humility."
When asked why is that so? Why is it so important? She responded, "It's the one virtue that Jesus used to describe himself. He said, `Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.'" (Matt. 11: 29)
That story fits in beautifully with today's readings. For the first reading and the Gospel reading both speak about the importance of humility.
What is humility? What does it mean to be humble? Does it mean to put ourselves down? Does it mean to think little of ourselves? Does it mean to deny our true worth? Is it saying, I'm five-feet tall, when I know I'm five foot-six? Is it saying you are "pangit," when you are a stunning beauty? Is it saying you are "unlovable," when you are a "bundle of charm?"
Not at all! Humility is something more profound than that. Humility is not thinking little of ourselves. Humility is not thinking of ourselves at all. In its most profound sense, humility means to be like Jesus, who said, "Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart." Humility means to be like Jesus, who said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve." (Matt. 20: 24-28) Humility means to live as Jesus lived – not for ourselves but for others. It means to use our talents and gifts as Jesus used his – not for ourselves and our own glory, but for others and their needs.
There's a story about three people, ho were discussing about recent translations of the Bible. The first person said, "I like the New American translation that we read at Mass. It has modernized the language without sacrificing reverence for God's word."
The second person said, "I like the Jerusalem Bible that we use in our Bible study group. It has poeticized the language without sacrificing the meaning of God's word."
The third person said, "I like my mother's translation of the Bible. She has translated the Bible into life and made it alive by her example. Her translation is the best translation of all."
That story sums up the challenge that Jesus sets before us in today's Gospel. Jesus challenges us to translate God's word into everyday life. He challenges us to use our talents and gifts, not for ourselves and our own glory, but for others and their needs.
This is the challenge that Jesus sets before us in today's readings. This is the challenge that he holds out to us today's liturgy.
Let's close with the Prayer for Generosity of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
"Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labor and not to ask for reward,
Except to know that I am doing your holy will."