As the great English Catholic G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly.” Chesterton was trying to be witty, of course, but his point was that humility is a hallmark of holiness- both for angels, and for us.
Consider an episode from the life of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, and now a candidate for sainthood. Sociologist Robert Coles once went to meet her at one of the soup kitchens she ran. When he arrived, Dorothy Day was in a conversation with a homeless woman who was drunk and mentally ill. The woman rambled on and on in a loud voice and kept nervously touching a large mole on her face. Only when the woman was finished did Dorothy Day politely excuse herself. She walked over to Coles and asked, “Do you wish to speak with one of us?”
Coles was astonished. He had expected her to say, “Do you wish to speak with me?” as we might have been tempted to do. But Dorothy Day was humble, and she didn’t assume that she was somehow more important than the homeless woman.
Jesus speaks of humility in today’s gospel, and promises that the humble will be exalted. In his parable about taking the lowest seat at a wedding banquet, Jesus warns us not to think too highly of ourselves at the expense of others. Because if we do, we’ll find it difficult to truly love other people. When we look down on other people, we might pity them, but pity is not love. And if we don’t think that they look up to us as we think they should, we’ll get huffy and bent out of shape.
In short, arrogance alienates, but it’s love that unites. And people that are full of love, are never full of themselves.
Readings for today’s Mass: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102911.cfm