Antonio P. Pueyo
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reproduced with Permission

There is an oft-told story about how the Angel Lightbearer or Lucifer lost his place around God’s throne. Even before God created the world and all in it, God revealed His plan to the host of angels. He showed them His Son in his human form and as a baby lying in the manger. Then God told the angels to pay homage to His Son. Many angels bowed down and worshiped, except Lucifer. He thought that as pure spirit, it would be beyond his dignity to worship a human being, and a baby at that. And he said, “Non serviam” – I will not serve. He rebelled That is the why Lucifer and his minions were banished from heaven.

“Serviam”, I will serve, was the motto of the famous Jaime Cardinal Sin. This motto also applies to mothers who take care of their sick children and fathers who labor in fields and offices for their families. This is what inspires good public servants who go about their tasks without much fanfare. Or why our lay leaders in various c hurch ministries continue to serve their communities for so many years. This is what the Lord tells us in this Sunday’s gospel, “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Mt. 23:11)

Humility is not often mentioned today. As somebody said, “When you’re as great and talented as I am, it’s hard to be humble.” Humility is a word that comes from “humus”, the soil, the ground we walk on. One who bows or prostrates himself gets closer to the soil. When Jesus took it upon Himself to wash the feet of his apostles, he took the humble position of stooping in order to perform this task meant for servants.

There was a beautiful practice among Filipino families in the old days when shoes were scarce and most people wore slippers and sandals. At night when the children are called to go to bed, the elder child has to wash the feet of his younger brothers and sisters. It is the older child’s duty to wash the feet or bathe the younger ones. This practice disappeared when kids no longer play in their bare feet.

Action starter: Change your focus. Look at the other’s needs.

In a world where the value is to become “king of the hill, top of the heap, and A-number one,” humility doesn’t seem to have a place. Humility is seen as a sign of weakness. Humility is perceived as being willing to be treated like a doormat by others. This is a wrong understanding of humility. Humility is a virtue of those who know their strengths and who realize their value and their dignity as persons. Knowing these, a humble person is one who gives importance to the needs of others, to the point of sacrificing his own needs. A humble person is one who changes his focus, from himself to the other. In this sense, humility is related to civility and courtesy.

If this be the case, then when a boss changes his focus from his own need for importance to giving importance to his workers, he is being humble. When a community leader visits her constituents and attends to their problems, then she is being humble. When a father sets aside time to play with and listen to his children’s stories, he is being humble. When a politician stops thinking of how to win the next election and instead focuses on improving the quality of life of his people, then he is being humble. When a priest or a lay leader listens to what parishioners have to say, he is being humble.

Once a lowly employee decided to show his little boy the place where he was working. While showing the boy around, he met his employer, and he nervously introduced his son. The boss smiled at the boy and said, “ When you grow up, we hope you become as good as your Dad and work with us.” This man built up his employee in the eyes of his son, rather than show his own authority and importance. This is true humility.