Readings for October 27, 2019
Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18
Psalm 34:2-3, 17-19, 23
2 Timothy 4:5-8
Growing up with three brothers in a neighborhood filled with boys, arrogance was a mask for a lack of confidence and humiliation was freely meted out as justice. Fittingly, “king of the hill” was one of our favorite games. The goal was to reach the top of the “hill” (typically a pile of snow or dirt) and become the self-appointed king. Then the rest of the boys would try to knock the king off the hill and similarly self-appoint.
The more spectacular the de-throning, the more fun it was to those playing along. Once, I even pushed my own brother (my big brother, which made it even more triumphant) into the street and into the path of an oncoming car (he was lightly tapped, but wasn’t hurt). In short, our game was a rough-and-tumble, no-holds-barred verification that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.”
This was one of the life-lessons of childhood that unknowingly prepared me for adult life. The small, playful humiliations of games with my peers have had an impact on the more life-altering humiliations of adulthood. Arrogance shattering events like losing a job, or being passed over for a new position or promotion, or being largely ignored at an event where others are held in high esteem can be painfully humiliating. However, knowing that God “knows no favorites” but “hears the cry of the oppressed” is the armor that allows me to carry on. Where once arrogance was a shield, I am learning that my shield must now be rooted in humility. At my age, I am mostly unafraid of embarrassment, but I am also beginning to shirk my boyish desire to stand atop any hill and call myself king.
I, like St. Paul, hope to have competed well and finish the race, to be the best servant that I can be, and to work every day towards being most pleasing to God. But the measure with which I do so is rooted in love, not in competition or ego. Being king of the hill and declaring my own glory is altogether fleeting. But being exalted by the just judge will lead me to my heavenly award.
O Lord my God, there is just one King in my life. You rule from heaven with justice and impartiality, knowing what is in my heart. Lord, have mercy as I am a sinner. May Your forgiveness present me with opportunities to reflect Your love to all I encounter. Amen