26th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
September 27, 2020
Reading the entire Matthew chapter 21, we will get the sense of the parable of the two sons of the vineyard owner. Jesus just entered the city of Jerusalem and was welcomed by the people with a shout of “Hosana” and palm branches. Then, he proceeded to the Temple area to cleanse it from the malpractices plaguing the holy ground. Thus, the elders and chief priests, the one who was in charge of the Temple, questioned Jesus, “who are you? By what authority do you act and teach?”
Thus, Jesus answered them through a parable. This parable speaks of two sons; the first representing the elders and the second the tax collectors and prostitutes. Yet, to the surprise of the elders, far from being the protagonists of the story, they turn to be the villains. To add insult to the injury, the elders were practically in the worse condition than these tax collectors, because they are still far from the vineyard, from salvation. However, instead of repenting, the elders got infuriated and decided to finish Jesus once for all.
The question is “why were the tax collectors able to repent while the elders were not?” The answer is something to do with two opposing powers: at one side of the ring is humility and the other is pride. We begin with pride. Based on the Church’s tradition, pride is the deadliest of seven deadly sins. St. Thomas Aquinas explained that pride is “an excessive desire for one’s own excellence which rejects subjection to God.” In short, proud men regard themselves better than others to the point of contempt. What makes pride so dangerous, it may lead even people to think they are self-sufficient and has no need even of God.
Pride is extremely subtle because it can take root even in spiritual matters. We cannot say that I am lustful for prayer, but we can be proud of our spiritual life. We see ourselves holier and more pious than others based on our standards.
At the opposite corner is humility. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, humility is a virtue that “temper and restrain the mind, lest it tends to high things immoderately.” In short, humility is the antidote of pride. Humility is rooted in the Latin word “humus” meaning soil. Humble persons recognize their identity as coming from the dust, and the breath of life and perfections are gifts of God. This humility will bring gratitude because we realized that despite nothing but dust, God is boundlessly generous and merciful to us.
However, humility and cowardice are often confused. Cowardice manifests in low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and poor in responsibility. Cowardice is rooted in incomplete and even distorted self-image. While humility begins with the right understanding of the self, that we are gratuitously loved by God. Humble people are strong people because only strong ones can confess their sins. Humble persons are mature persons because only mature ones are able to own their weakness, say sorry, and ask for help. Humble men and women are tough people because it is hard to forgive.
Lord, grant us humility, that we may follow Your holy will.
Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP