Monday, September 2, 2019

The Power of Humility (Sunday Readings Reflection 09.01.19)

What is humility?  According to the Oxford English dictionary it means "a low estimate of one's importance, worthiness or merits... meekness; the opposite of pride" (Oxford English Dictionary, 1989).  Today's First Reading Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 29-29, and Gospel Luke 14:1, 7-14, speak of humility. In order to understand humility, we must also understand pride. Pride is defined as "A high, esp. an excessively high, opinion of one's own worth or importance which gives rise to a feeling or attitude of superiority over others; inordinate self-esteem."₁

The greatest example of humility is Jesus Christ himself.  During the homily, our pastor had made a point that at a banquet, the celebrities are given a seat of importance.  However, people want a photograph or an autograph but have no actual relationship with them.  In order to have a relationship with those He created, God sent down His Son from Heaven.  But he didn't send him as a full-grown man all-knowing, all-powerful and influential from the start.  Jesus came down in the most innocent form, born as a baby from his Blessed Mother, Mary.  What is more, he was not given a royal birth.  He was born in a stable, among animals and was placed in a manger (Luke 2:7, NABRE).

How much more meek and humble can one be, especially one who is one part of our Trinitarian God?  For the Son to become human, to feel loss and grief (John 11:35), to feel sorrow and anxiety (Matthew 26:36-42) that the Father had to send down His own angel to bring Him comfort (Luke 22:43), to feel pain, endure suffering and death.  To allow us to know Him, He came down to know us, feel what we feel.

Not just in his birth, suffering and death, but in his works, Jesus showed humility.  He stayed with sinners (Luke 19:1-10) and protected and defended them (John 8:1-11), allowed them to care for Him and be hospitable to Him (Luke 7:36-50).  What is more, He the master washed the feet of his own disciples (John 13:1-20) as an example of how He wants us to be with others.  He showed us how we must treat others.  That even when we have a higher education, a higher income status, we are not more important than them.  He did not exalt Himself as one who is greater that only the most important were able to speak to Him, to look at him to touch Him.  Instead, He sat with the lowly, the oppressed, the outcasts, the poor, the hungry, the sickly.  With his greater knowledge of the world, the plan of the Father, He did not make himself to be more important.  He was the example that those with higher education, wealth, knowledge and power have the responsibility to see through the eyes of those without these things.

I was recently reminded of this while teaching.  Checking vital signs is one of the first things you do in nursing school.  It becomes second nature.  The lingo is a language you become fluent in, normal and abnormal values are things you just know and understand what to do.  The students were instructed to role-play (one nurse and one patient).  These students are in their first semester of nursing, learning the very basic skills of the trade.  Most have never been in a hospital caring for patients, and many probably have never step foot in one either unless to visit a family member.  At the end of their role play, the students were to "give report" and state the vital signs.  One of the blood pressures was very abnormal, which looking at the student whose blood pressure it was could not be possible.  Watching the student "nurse", they already seemed unsure during the exercise, but when I had offered assistance, they declined.  Hearing this abnormal value while the paper was in front of them, it would have been very easy to reprimand them.  Yet, I had to stop and think of my first week of nursing school, what I knew and didn't know; the fear I had of asking for help; the nervousness to "present" my patient not knowing how and never having seen a report being given.  I had to put myself in my student's shoes and try and see why they did not seek my assistance and why they did not use their references for normal values.  Instead, I had to encourage them that it's okay not to know, and the importance of seeking help.  I had to humble my thinking and not consider all the years of experience and education as me being superior, but more of a tool to help my students learn and understand.  I was not more important. In fact, my students were more important in that moment because of their need to be nurtured and cared for.  In order to build a relationship with my students, I need to let them know how much I understand their plight because I have been there, that I understand and can see things through their eyes.

In being humble, in lifting up those who those with worldly view would consider “beneath us,” in providing for those who have less than we do, we are doing what God has called us to do.  It should be done without expectations of repayment.  As it was through the Lord's humility that we are able to know God and have eternal life, we are shown how humility has the power to bring up others.

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Angelica Delallana, MSN, RN

All biblical references are from the New American Bible Revised Edition

Humility. (1989). In Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Retrieved from