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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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Peter and Paul: 
		<strong>Peter (d. 64?)</strong>. St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: "You are the Messiah" (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter's life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus. 
<p>The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles. </p><p>And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b-19). </p><p>But the Gospels prove their own trustworthiness by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus. </p><p>He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self-regard, "What are we going to get for all this?" (see Matthew 19:27). He receives the full force of Christ's anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Matthew 16:23b). </p><p>Peter is willing to accept Jesus' doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus's ear, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears. The Risen Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep (John 21:15-17). </p><p><strong>Paul (d. 64?)</strong>. If the most well-known preacher today suddenly began preaching that the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the Constitution, the angry reaction would help us understand Paul's life when he started preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most Pharisaic of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate. </p><p>Paul's central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort—even the most scrupulous observance of law—can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus. </p><p>Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God's chosen people, the children of the promise. </p><p>In light of his preaching and teaching skills, Paul's name has surfaced (among others) as a possible patron of the Internet.</p> American Catholic Blog The way of the cross is unavoidably uphill. Christians don’t get to carry their cross downhill. Suffering has always been inextricably linked with Christianity, but those who carry their cross willingly in these times can serve as an example and inspiration to all of us.

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