September 2, 2010

Bending Exercises

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 14: 1, 7-14
“But the one who humbles himself will be exalted”

The recent hostage taking in Manila that led to the death of eight Hongkong nationals was a big blow to the Filipino pride. The incident revealed flaws in our security and law enforcement unit. It was a major mistake. As a nation, let’s humbly accept our mistake, do the necessary action to ease the anger in Hongkong and seriously reform our police force. All of us are sad and in shame. I don’t want to offer any justification to lessen our guilt. A mistake is a mistake. We can’t do anything about it but to humbly accept our fault.

Our gospel today fits us well. The tragic event calls us to do “bending exercise” – a call to humbly ask for forgiveness and do some necessary reforms. Jesus tells us that humility is an important virtue and we can benefit a lot from it. When you look at the different misgivings, anger and violence in our midst, we see that pride is one of the main culprit. Nobody wants to be humiliated and insulted in front of others. We don’t want to lose face because our honor is somehow attached to it.
But what is humility? It is not only choosing the least sit in the party or not seeking for honor and recognition. Genuine humility is 1) to endure insult and contempt for doing the right things 2) To admit one’s mistake and correct it 3) To recognize that everything is a gift from God. Thus, we can’t boast of anything as ours.

Sad to say, humility is not one of our recognizable virtues. To some us, we even view humility as something reserve for the weaklings. We did not realize that there is hidden power in practicing humility. Jesus’ decision to embrace humiliation, insult and death during his crucifixion puzzled everybody including the powerful Roman soldiers.

How do we cultivate humility? Jesus suggested a couple of “bending exercises” : 1) If you’re invited in the party, take the least sit and 2) If you’re hosting a party, invite not only your friends but the poor and the marginalized.

In our world today where success is measured by social status, educational attainment, wealth and power, the following “bending exercises” can make us humble and free. Let’s consciously say these words daily. One a day can keep the spirit of pride away.

1. “I made a mistake.” Admitting a mistake is not easy. It takes a lot of courage and humility to own a mistake.
2. “You did a good job!” We are slow in giving praises and good remarks. But we are quick to condemn when somebody commits a mistake.
3. “What is your opinion?” We are always smarter than others. Thus, we don’t listen to their thoughts, ideas and opinions.
4. “I need your help.” We don’t trust others and their works. To delegate work or ask for help is not in our in our system. We prefer to work on our own.
5. “Thank you very much.” A grateful heart recognizes the help of others. Thanking others is our recognition of their valued presence in our lives.
6. “WE.” An admission that I belong to a community of believers. We are all created equally in the image and likeness of God.

It will take some months before we forget that shameful hostage tragedy in Manila. Let’s wear the garment of humility, take everything with a grain of salt, forgive ourselves, advocate for reform, and move on. Our national pride is deeply wounded. But we need to remind ourselves that one bad incident does not define us as a nation. We are more than that. In humility and conviction, we could still say, “I am proud to be a Filipino.”

- Fr.Willy M. Samson,SJ / Dominican Sisters Chapel, Baliwasan / August 29, 2010

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