The St. Petersburg, Florida, now it is known as Times Tampa Bay Times, carried an interesting story about Don Shula, the coach of the Miami Dolphins. He was vacationing with his family in a small town in northern Maine.
One afternoon it was raining. So Shula, his wife, and five children decided to attend a matinee movie in the town’s only theater. When they arrived, there were only six other people present. When Shula and his family walked in, all six people stood up and applauded. He waved and smiled. As Shula sat down, he turned to his wife and said, “We are thousand miles from Miami and they are giving me a standing ovation. They must get the Dolphins on television all the way up here.”
Then a man came up and to shake Don Shula’s hand. Shula beamed and said, “How did you know me?” The man replied, “Mister, I don’t know who you are. All I know is that just before you and your family walked in the theatre manager told us that unless four more people showed up we wouldn’t have a movie today.”
There is a journey we all have to make, a pilgrimage we are all called to undertake, and that is the journey from pride to humility. In our story, here was a man whose reputation extended across the country not only as an excellent coach but also as an excellent human being. It was only natural for Shula to think that the man who came over to shake his hand know who he was. When it turned out that he didn’t, Shula was the first to laugh at himself and share with others.
The readings warn us against all forms of pride and self-glorification. In the Gospel, Jesus talks about a wedding banquet. He says, “When you are invited, go and take the lowest place.” To enter the wedding banquet - and heaven will be a glorious banquet with Jesus as Bridegroom and the Church as his bride - to enter the wedding banquet, says Jesus, "take the lowest place." I know, we, as Catholics, are people of humility, at least when we come to the Church. We definitely take the lowest place. I may do the same, but don’t much choice.
Pope Francis frequently talks about humility. After he became Pope, a reporter asked him, “Who is Jorge Bergoglio?” The Pope responded, “A sinner.” He knows that who we are before the Lord is due to the Lord’s grace and mercy, not due to our own innate qualities.
The first reading from the book of Sirach, reminds us that if we are humble we will find favor with God, and others will love us. The virtue of humility has two aspect: being humble before God and open our hearts and hands for others. The prayer before communion should exemplify our inner mode before God, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” St. Teresa of Calcutta was certainly a humble little lady who was a giant before God. She knew what God had called her to do, and was not concerned what people said about her. Jesus says, “When you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”
“Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” Sirach 3:18
Happy Labor Day Weekend!