August 27, 2017 — Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
In spite of the attitudes he sometimes demonstrates, at heart St. Paul was a humble man. He was especially deferential when he considered the power and grace of God. Today’s Second Reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans reveals the awe with which Paul holds God: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!” As Paul reflects on the Lord, Paul is a bit overwhelmed.
Humility does not come easily to many people, but living a stewardship way of life is a modest and unassuming way to approach life. At the basis of this is the acceptance and admittance that we are not in charge. God is. There are so many ways that Christ was humble — throughout Holy Scripture it is clear that the Lord felt His focus should be on His Father’s will, not His own. More than once Jesus said in these words or words that meant the same thing: “I come to serve, not to be served.”
The First Reading from Isaiah reveals the man Shebna to us. This is a bit unique in the Book of Isaiah because Isaiah did not normally deal with individuals, but this is a lesson in humility. Shebna was an officer in the court of King Hezekiah. Shebna’s major weakness was pride, excessive pride, something that many of us may suffer with as well. Shebna was actually the household treasurer, sort of a steward.
The main point of this prophecy of Isaiah is that Shebna will lose his position and authority and be replaced by another man Eliakim. Eliakim was known to be a servant of the Lord, faithful and trustworthy, and humble. This passage is a reminder to each of us that God is in control of everything. Recognizing that our lives need to be God-centered and we are here to serve is important to each of us.
In addition to his wonder at God’s wisdom and knowledge, St. Paul speaks to the same control of God on our lives found in the reading from Isaiah. There are many key messages in this brief reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans, but look at his closing: “For from him and through him and for him are all things.” You may have heard the statement “You cannot out-give God.” That is the point of everything coming from Him and through Him and for Him. God has a plan for each of us. We may have our own plans, but they can never be as accurate or important as God’s plan for us. That in itself is humbling.
Even if we have our own plan, we could not make it happen without God’s help. We lack God’s wisdom and knowledge. Accepting that and turning to the Lord through prayer and commitment will allow us to fulfill God’s desire for us — that is to be His disciple. All we do needs to be for Him. That is what Christ did, and what the Lord meant when He said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of Him Who sent me.” Our role is to seek what it is God wants from us, and then to try to fulfill that in our lives. It is not nearly as complicated as it may seem.
In the Gospel Reading from St. Matthew Jesus poses a question to His Apostles: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Of course, using the phrase the Son of Man He is referring to Himself. Jesus did not ask this because of any unawareness on His part. He is not conducting a poll. He asks His followers this because He wants them to know Who He is.
Each of us in our own way answers this question every day. Our answer is found in what we do and what we believe. If we truly believe that Jesus is Who He says He is, it should affect the way we live. Our lives should humbly make every effort to emulate Him. Peter has been known to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, but in this instance when Jesus makes it clear that He wants to know who the Apostles think He is, Peter answers definitively (and correctly) “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus is pleased that His disciples are coming to know Who He is in truth. He commends Peter, but then He respectfully says, “to tell no one that He is the Christ.” We do not receive that same admonition; our roles are to spread the Good News and as disciples of the Lord live our lives in such a way that it is clear Who He is.