Today is Palm Sunday. We would normally be starting our church service outside, holding crosses of palm in the air to be blessed, and entering the church in song and as we begin our pilgrimage through this week to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday. But we can not. We are at home and washing our hands. And that is a good thing.
Jesus chooses a donkey to enter Jerusalem. It was a subversive act of humility when the Jewish people expected their messiah to arrive on a warhorse to liberate them from the Romans. But Jesus came to liberate them from themselves and their hubris. It’s like turning up to the Oscars in a 1991 white Toyota Corolla that is a bad need of an oil change instead of a limousine.
Jesus’ humility was the hallmark of his kneeling at the disciples’ feet to wash them after the Passover meal. It was in his surrendering to the temple authorities in the Garden of Gethsemane without a fight. And was in the yielding of his life for the sake of the whole of creation on the cross.
Humility is the laying aside the primacy of one’s self for the other; of putting aside our hubris to expose our oneness, our connectedness to each other in God. In humility, we can enter into acts of kindness, not out of a need to be needed, but out of a genuine love of the other.
Humility is in the act of compassion of the Good Samaritan. He looked after the injured man not because he wanted to display his ability to help, but because the wounded man was more important than himself. He did not care about the cost. He was just a neighbour.
Jesus was asked by one of the disciples at the beginning of the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, “who will be the greatest in heaven? Jesus’ answer was simple: whoever is humble…will be the greatest in heaven. (Matthew 18:1-5)
Humility is a quality that must be intentionally pursued. If we don’t intentionally pursue it, we are not humble about our need to be humble. Persuing it requires us to be conscious of the motivations in the things that we do, and it needs us to be aware of our connectedness to each other in God. It is the movement of our focus on oneself to focus on the other.
In a sense, being humble is the revealing of Christ within us to the world.
I have been reading a lot of Mary Oliver of late. She was an Episcopalian poet and mystic who had a true sense of the world. She wrote a poem called “humility”. It has two lines!
Poems arrive ready to begin. Poets are only the transportation.
She described humility as being the vehicle for something more significant than herself. And she is right in that. When we are humble, God is visible. Hubris is just us getting in the way of God at work!