Humility. In a world roaring with voices and searching for equity, justice, inclusion and change, humility would have no place. Such a world asks more: the choice, the action, the photo, the video, shot and shared. It demands visibility, advocacy, deliberate involvement. Society is demanding so much more than in the past. But beneath all that churling action is another layer of human life. That is where the Gospel and the Paul’s Letter to the Philippians finds reasonance on this 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time: at home.
Humility. “Jesus was in the form of God but did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at…” Instead, he emptied himself into human form. And there he found the reality that M. Scott Peck summarized in three words: “Life is difficult.” Think about it…so many of the parables introduce deeply painful moments in life. The Prodigal Son story, the workers in the vineyard and fair wages, and today, the two sons: one who refuses his father’s request and the other who accedes to it. And then, the first actually performs the task and the second does not. And while rewards are discussed, the reality is there is no judgement in Jesus’ story. There is a keen sense of observation of human behavior, and a judgement-free zone about the choices and consequences. In those moments, Jesus lives out the humility of what it means to be human. It is not about power or control. It is about navigating the very difficult tides of human life and experiences.
Jesus recognized that each of us lives within systems that are not of our own construction or even liking. The traditional mantra for this is “Give to Cesar what is Caesar’s. Give to God what is God’s.” But there were a multitude of systems that organized society and individual lives throughout history. There was Rome and the governorship, the Temple and the rabbis, the neighborhoods and families. Jesus neither contested nor challenged those in power. Instead, the challenges he constrcuted were deeply personal ones, and each one sprang from a worldview where God so loved the world that choice was paramount. Encouraging that, Jesus not only stepped away for his own power, but he invited others to do the same. He invites each of us to do the same in the places where we are, when we can and how we can manage. He reminds us that judgement of one another has no place, but conversation, communication, and choice is essential. In all of this, Jesus is illustrating very clearly what it means to be in the form of God and not seek equality with God.
That is the message that matters here: we are a nation engulfed in cataclysmic change at the moment. Acknowledging how difficult life is, how suffering is part of life and life itself is simply not fair means embracing our own humanity with humility. Raising our voices for change means making it better for the next generation. Humility recognizes the road is long and circuitous, but the path is of our own making.