Inheritors of the earth

Early in the long running saga of the US Presidential election Donald Trump told us; “Humility gets you nowhere!” He may have been half joking but he was also half serious. A humble approach to those whose votes he seeks does not seem to be his way. Instead he appears intent on bulldozing his way to the White House. He is an easy target because he is in the news but perhaps mention of humility makes many of us uncomfortable.

holy-bibleHumility means accepting my total dependence. In A Short History of Nearly Everything, American writer Bill Bryson explains complex scientific information in simple terms. One fact, in particular, gripped me. We cannot live unaided if we climb more than 10 km into the sky or dive more than 10 km into the earth. In the whole universe, as far as we know, there is just this 20 km corridor where we can live. And it only exists on one little planet. Further, 64% of our planet is covered by water and therefore also uninhabitable; and this is to say nothing of the deserts, high mountains and polar regions. We are specks, grains of sand, inhabiting a tiny corner of a vast space whose limits we cannot imagine. And this is only the beginning of our dependence on nature.

We are even more dependent on each other. Everything we are we have received. Georges Bernanos, in A Diary of a Country Priest, wrote that “all is gift.” It is a simple saying but it nourishes us with the truth that no person is an island, no one is self-made. We receive and then we have the joy of making something of what we receive and giving it to others.

The Pharisee, in Jesus’ story about the two men who went to the temple to pray, did the right things. He ticked all the boxes; prayer, fasting, giving alms. But he ended up thinking he was perfect and needed no one else. The tax collector on the other hand, knew his life was a mess. He had exploited his dependence on others. He felt bad about it but didn’t know what to do. He felt, blocked, helpless and broken. All he could do was cry out to God, “Be merciful to me!”

The dependent person has no solutions. They look to others for grace, that is, unconditional love in action. Such an attitude does not fit easily into a world that prides itself on concrete solutions to concrete problems. There is no room for grace in a “fix-it” society. We are called to hear again the words of Jesus about the poor of spirit and the humble who will “inherit the earth.” (Matt 5:5)

23 October 2016                     Sunday 30 C

Sira 35:12…18                        2 Timothy 4:6…18                  Luke18:9-14

Post published in: Faith

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