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Bible Reflections View Comments

Give God the Glory
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, September 1, 2013
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The buzz was almost immediate: “He lives in an apartment in Buenos Aires.... He cooks his own meals.... He takes the bus to work.” As soon as Pope Francis was elected, details about his life as Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina were in the news and on social media websites. In the days and weeks following the election, one act after another pointed to the pope’s humility. He models a simple way of life and encourages others in the church to do the same.

Today’s Gospel is one of Jesus’ most extended comments on the virtue of humility. The society of Jesus’ day depended a great deal on status and honor. People were in relationship to one another according to strict rules of class, occupation, and conduct. This was far more than a question of the arranged seating we might experience at a formal dinner.

Luke frames the parable Jesus tells by setting the scene for us. He tells us Jesus is at the home of one of the leading Pharisees and “the people there were observing him carefully.” Jesus knows this and turns their observations back on them. He chides them for seeking positions of honor, suggesting that they instead will be shamed by someone more important than they perceive themselves to be.

Jesus is talking to the climbers, the pushy ones, the people who are already abusing the little power they have in a bid to get even more status, more power. They’re the ones who don’t mind stepping over other people to get ahead.

Jesus teaches again and again that the last will be first, not as a way to encourage them to push forward and get ahead of the rest, but as a reassurance that it’s not the pushy people who get their way in the end, even though it might seem to be the case in the short term.

In an ironic twist, stories such as this one at times have been used by those in power to keep people lower down on the ladder in their place. It’s not surprising that the world was astounded by the signs that Pope Francis was such a personally humble man who declined any appearance of pomp and exaltation. And there were those who accused him of “pauperism,” pretending to a poverty that wasn’t genuine.

The virtue of humility too often has been preached to people who already had no status—and as a result, no self-esteem—and it just made them feel worse about themselves and willing to let others push them around. Jesus was talking to the leaders, those who had plenty of status and weren’t afraid to trade on it. The pope, like Jesus before him, pointed out that his example was for his fellow cardinals, bishops, and priests, those who might be tempted to accept the social marks of importance, all the little perks that come with status in society.

True humility is not about letting others push us around. Neither is it running ourselves down or being falsely modest about what we can do. It’s about realizing that who we are in relationship to one another depends solely on who we are in relationship to God. It’s about recognizing that the gifts we have and the recognition that comes to us rightly belongs to God. We will accept ourselves and those around us as truly equal in God’s eyes.


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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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