Conducting ourselves with humility was a key take-away from the Mass readings this past weekend. “Conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts” (Sirach 3:17). “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). The definition of humility is to have an accurate and true assessment of oneself. The word humble originates from the Greek work humus, meaning earth or soil—ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We all come from dust, and we all return to dust.
The Gospel from Saint Luke reinforces this theme with the story of Jesus dining in the home of a leading Pharisee. That Jesus was invited to dine at a prominent leader’s home indicates that Jesus was accepted as an equal. In turn, social customs of that time would have required Jesus to host a similar dinner gathering in repayment. What a social faux pas Jesus was committing when he advised the other dinner guests to take the lowest place at the table and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
The humble person is the one who recognizes that whatever one’s social status in life, we all have come from dust, and we all will return to dust. Everything we have is a gift given to us by God and is meant to be shared with others, and our repayment comes in much bigger ways than simply a seat at a popular person’s table. “For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14).
Catholicism 101: Tradition and moral instruction are key themes throughout Sirach. The early Church extensively used the Book of Sirach to pass on those traditions and moral teachings to subsequent generations. The Book of Sirach has always been recognized by the Catholic Church as divinely inspired and still uses it extensively during liturgy. Interestingly, Sirach is one of the books removed from the Bible during the Protestant Reformation—makes sense given the author of Sirach recognized it was important to both study holy books AND carry on religious traditions.