The soft grass of truth

It is an interruption in the flow of the gospel when Jesus suddenly turns the spotlight on himself and says “I am humble in heart.” The word ‘humility’ is so familiar it slips by as something ‘spiritual’, unrelated to the hard tasks of daily life. But humility is powerful.

Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoievski “often calls us to ‘humble charity’ (which) comes like cool water to tortured, passionate, ambitious spirits. It is like the soft grass into which one lowers one’s head, through which one kisses the ground. It invokes the image of the patient, cruelly beaten Christ.” (Michael Novak).

A humble person is passionate about truth. It is beautiful to see it in political figures like Ghandi and Mandela. And it is often seen in artists who see their task as getting out of the way and letting truth speak. Ahdaf Soueif is an Egyptian novelist who entitles her latest work, Cairo, my City, our Revolution. She says she had been asked to write on her native city years ago but “just couldn’t” in the time of Mubarak. But then, with the revolution in Tahrir Square, she felt the pulse of energy and idealism of the young people, Muslim and Christian together in the square, celebrating their new found freedom together, praying with and supporting one another.

There was a truth about what was happening that flowed into her book and for a moment, she sensed the truth of the fundamental unity between people when what is best within has room to breathe. Soueif says that it is wrong to see our critical times as a division between an angry East dominated by Islamic fundamentalism and an embattled West vowing retribution with military might. It is far truer, she says, to see the best of people in East and West struggling together against those – in the East and in the West – who want to keep the world in the mould they have designed in their own interest, oblivious of our children’s inheritance.

In a similar way she allows the truth of the Israeli/Palestinian struggle to come out. The two-state solution, she says, has no chance of success. The truthful thing to do is to build one state where Jews and Arabs learn to live together.

All of this is humble charity on the world stage. Its foundation is a passion for truth. ‘Humus’ comes from ‘ground’ and the humble person is attached to what is left when all self-interest, all hidden agendas, are stripped away and we are standing on the bare earth. Again, in Dostoievski’s words, it is “the soft grass into which one lowers one’s head, through which one kisses the ground.” Jesus is the light, the truth, the bread, the shepherd. He is all these things and he is “humble in heart.” He came to share in what is most basic and beautiful in what it is to be human. That is what we celebrate.

9 July 2017                              Sunday 14 A

Zechariah 9;9-10                     Romans 8:9-13                        Matthew 11:25-30

Post published in: Faith

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