Sunday, August 29, 2010

Humility: A Reverse Raffle


Last night our parish had its first “Reverse Raffle. It was my first reverse raffle so it took a little used to getting excited when my number wasn’t called. It wasn’t until I heard people moan and say so sorry Father Michael that I realized my number was called. Usually I get excited when my name is called, but it’s the opposite at a reversal raffle.

I think normally we get excited when we ARE chosen and with a reverse raffle you get excited the more and more you are NOT chosen. Jesus proclaims in today’s Gospel: “The last will be first and the first will be last.” This is not a bad illustration for today’s readings. The readings really go against how we normally operate.

From Sirach:

Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God….

…. What is too sublime for you, seek not,
into things beyond your strength search not.

We are always kind of taught be the best you can be. Be number one. Be an All Star. Be the next American Idol. Be on the starting team. Be the best in the class. Be the Valedictorian. But, the reading from Sirach really reverses this. And it’s not that we shouldn’t have a healthy self-image and use the gifts that God has given us, but we should remember to always be humble about it.

Here’s a true story of someone that could probably be helped by humility:

Simon Cowell has become famous for his sarcastic dismissals of low-talent hopefuls on shows like "American Idol" and "Britain's Got Talent," and now one castoff has decided to sue.

Emma Czikai, 54, is suing Cowell and "Britain's Got Talent" for $3.8 million after she was unceremoniously booted from the show in 2009, the Daily Mail reported. You can watch it her it’s actually pretty funny: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly3wMKDVFWY

After Czikai belted out a few notes of the power ballad "You Raise Me Up," judge Piers Morgan buzzed her off stage in a matter of seconds, followed shortly by Cowell and third judge, Amanda Holden.

After the performance, Cowell quipped, "Emma, this is a beautiful song when you're not singing it," adding, "You have a horrible singing voice."

Now humility would help in this case if she just admitted “hey maybe I don’t have the best voice and maybe I can even laugh at myself and Simon’s sarcasm.” But instead it’s consumed her and Czikai said she filed the suit in order to retain her "self-respect and dignity." I’m not sure how filing a lawsuit can do that. It may take a little getting used to, but imagine what a relief it could be for her if she just admitted, “I really didn’t sing that well, but it’s ok, I didn’t win, but it’s OK, They didn’t choose me, and it’s ok. It doesn’t change my dignity, I’m still a person created in the image of God and loved by God.”

Humility allows us the freedom to simply be what we are and know the unconditional acceptance and love of God. We can even choose to lower ourselves and lift others up because we realize it doesn’t diminish our dignity.

In the Gospel: Jesus tells the 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.”

Mother Teresa's centennial of birth was this week - she was born on August 26, 1910. There has been a big debate about whether to light the empire state building up in white and blue for her anniversary as has been done for other special occasions. Blue and white are the colors of the order, the Missionaries of Charity, that she guided until her death in 1997. While Mother Teresa doesn't rate in Real-estate honcho Anthony E. Malkin’s eyes, the building has had no problem shilling for China's regime, blue M&Ms, Mariah Carey and the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

The building went red and gold last year on the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China; turned blue in 1995 for the rollout of blue M&Ms; and glowed purple, pink and white on April 24, 2008, for the release of Mariah's album, "E = MC2."

It was ultimately rejected. Many are disappointed, but I’m not sure that Mother Theresa would be. She lived humility and didn’t desire honors or praise.

When she won the Nobel Peace prize in 1979, she accepted the prize but declined the traditional banquet and asked that she be given the $6,000 which would have been spent on the dinner, and she wanted to use it to feed the poor, blind and the lame in Calcutta. The Nobel Prize Committee did cancel the dinner in her honor as peace prize winner and they gave her the money which she used to serve the poor.

She lived out the Gospel and truly showed an example of humility. Like the reverse raffle, living out humility does take a little getting used to.

Here’s a prayer of humility that was given to me and I often pass on to people who come to me seeking direction. It’s called the Litany of Humility. At first read it may take a little getting used to, but if you stay with it for a while you may come to see its wisdom as well as how contrary humility is as opposed to how we are used to operating.

I invite you to pray this with me responding after each phrase:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Like the reverse raffle and mother Theresa’s humility this may take a little getting used to and may seem completely contrary to the way that we live. But this is the humility that Christ calls us to that will help us to love and “be loved more than a giver of gifts” and “find favor with God.”

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