Legend has it that one day Isaac Newton (17th and 18th cent.) was sitting under a tree when an apple fell on his head. (I suspect that over the years the legend changed a bit here and there.) Newton was the kind of fellow who often asked questions about many things. So…he started to think about gravity.
One of the things about gravity was its conceptual use as a metaphor for the phrase “things that go up must come down.” This notion fits in well with the basic lesson in the Gospel for the twenty second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Luke 1, 7-14). And that basic lesson is one of “humility.”
Jesus is invited to dinner. Apparently, he appears to be very observant in noticing that many people seem to heading toward the “best” places at the table. Not realizing, of course, that the host would more than likely place someone more important in that spot. This could lead to severe embarrassment. Jesus’ sage advise is: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
What does this mean? With this bit of wisdom, Jesus is speaking about being invited and doing the inviting. Humility is important in both instances. When you are invited to a meal, go to the lowest place at the table. The host may put you at a more prestigious spot. When you invite others to a party, don’t invite only those friends who will most likely return the gesture. Rather, invite those who can’t pay you back. For example, the poor, the sick, the disabled.
In other words, from a moral perspective, what goes up (pride) must come down (humility.) Humility can be a difficult or simplistic thing. What is it anyway? Simply put, humility is the telling of the truth. You are who you are and it would be stupid to pretend that you are someone else.
If you have talents, accept them. They are God given gifts in order to help you serve others. No one has ever been cheated. God may not have given all of us musical talent, but may well have given us something musicians can’t do. For instance, listening intensively to others. And that is how it goes. Accept the truth as reality.
It is motivation, above all, that helps us deal with reality while reflecting on our own reasons for dealing with others. Why do I want to do this or that? In order to impress someone? Or in order to do it because I can and I will.
Remember that we are all created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:27), which means we deal with others as who we are and not who we wish to be. Handling that reality bespeaks humility. If ever there was a good metaphor for this Gospel reading it is that of gravity. What goes up (pride) must come down (humility).