Welcome to Green Reflections, the blog dedicated to reflections on the readings from the Roman Catholic Sunday Lectionary, with particular sensitivity to the needs of the earth. Use this blog to deepen your own awareness of our Creator's desires for the planet and ways that we can appreciate God's goals for the earth,giving it the loving care that it deserves.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” This saying of Jesus is easy to ignore because it really rubs against western cultural values. In the United States, the meek, humble person is often invisible while those who are “important” have their stories told in newspapers, in magazines and on television. Likewise, those who want to succeed in business need to “sell” themselves in order to get a raise or receive prestigious assignments. Since pride and humility are so important to God, then the question for us is, “What are the pride and humility that Jesus spoke about?”
It is clear in the parable Jesus tells about the Pharisee who prided himself on being morally superior to others, that God considers this kind of conceit to be worthless. The tax collector, on the other hand, humbled himself before God and only asked for mercy. Jesus tells us that this man, the tax collector, has been justified by God—not the Pharisee. What is the tax collector’s secret to winning God’s favor? Clearly it is his humility.
There are many definitions of humility that include being meek and avoiding conceit about our accomplishments. The definition that I want to look at today comes from the Greek word, humus, meaning “from the earth” or “of the earth.” This etymology of humility clearly refers us back to Genesis where God formed humankind out of the dust of the earth. Some may think that this story of being dust means that we are worthless or at least not valuable. I don’t think that is the point.
When I think about the creation of the cosmos and the very beginning, called “the big bang,” I am in awe of the reality that everything in our universe comes from the same original dense matter that exploded. When I seriously consider that the very molecules in my body are composed of the same matter as molecules in all other living matter, then I know that on a certain level my value is on the same plane as every other creature. This sameness does not negate our special place in the world. We human beings do have a special relationship to God and we have been gifted with intelligence, creativity and the ability to empathize with others. And we are the part of the cosmos that is able to reflect on life and take responsibility for our actions.
Even so, if we really take seriously our part in the universe and our relationship to all creatures, then we begin to realize that we are kin to all creatures. Our pets are not only adorable, loved members in our families, they are also related to us at an organic level. If I consider that not only my dog and cat are related to me, but so also are the polar bears, the termites and the desert pika, then I know that wherever I go and whatever I do is done either in harmony with or contrary to this basic part of my identity. Either I look kindly and compassionately at all life as my kin or I deny this important part of being human.
When Jesus said that God justified the humble tax collector, he gave us a tremendous role model for our lives. Not only do we need to be humble about our circumstances and accomplishments, but we also need to recognize our relationship to all creatures to be truly humble. Perhaps it would be a good idea this week to spend time out with nature in order to reacquaint ourselves with our kin that live underground, on the land, in the trees and in the water. When I taught high school, I used to send my students outside to gaze on a flower or a tree in order to see how God is reflected in them. Perhaps this parable that Jesus told could be an invitation to us to gaze deeply into nature and realize that we are kin to all that lives. Then we may be able to better respond with love and concern for the needs of all the living. If we do that, then God may justify us along with the tax collector.
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- Audubon Society
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- Environment California
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