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Home Sections The Daily B.R.E.A.D. The inordinate desire for praise and fame
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Sections - The Daily B.R.E.A.D.
Sunday, 02 September 2007 04:58

The inordinate desire for praise and fame

The readings of today's Mass tell us about a virtue that is the basis of all the others, namely, humility. It is so necessary that Jesus takes advantage of every opportunity to explain it to his followers. On this particular occasion Our Lord is invited to a banquet in the house of one of the leading Pharisees. Jesus notices how the guests, as they arrive, take up the most honourable positions at table. Perhaps it is when they are already seated and have begun to talk that Our Lord tells them a parable (Luke 14:1, 7-11) which ends with these words: when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

This parable reminds us of the need to know our place, to avoid being blinded by ambition and letting life become a frantic pursuit of ever greater goals, for which in many cases we are unqualified and which sooner or later would cause us to be humiliated. Ambition, one of the forms of pride, is often the cause of deep dissatisfaction in the person who suffers from it. Why do you look for the first places? Why do you want to be above others? asks Saint John Chrysostom (St John Chrysostom, Homilies on St Matthew’s Gospel, 65, 4). Everybody has a natural appetite (which in its proper place can be good and noble) for honour and glory. Ambition is simply a disordered tendency to look for honour, to exercise authority, or to have a position that is in some way superior, or at least appears to be so.

True humility is not opposed to the legitimate desire for personal advancement in social life, to enjoying the necessary professional prestige, to receiving the honour which is due to every human being. All this is compatible with a deep humility. But the humble person doesn’t like showing off He knows that his purpose in life is not to shine and be highly regarded, but to carry out a mission for God and for others.

The virtue of humility has nothing to do with being shy, timid or mediocre. It causes us to be fully aware of the talents Our Lord has given us and, without losing a right intention, want to make them fruitful in our lives. Humility counteracts the tendency to boast about our achievements and of thinking we are wonderful. It leads us to a wise moderation and to direct to God the desires of glory which are hidden in every human heart: Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam (Ps 113:1) - not to us, 0 Lord, but to You be all glory due. Humility makes us always acknowledge that our talents and our virtues, both the natural ones and those of grace, come from God: from his fullness have we all received (John 1:16). Everything good is from God; all that comes from us is imperfection and sin. And so, the lively consideration of graces received makes

us humble, because a knowledge of them excites gratitude (St Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, III, 5). To penetrate, with the help of grace, into what we are and the greatness of the divine goodness, helps to keep us in our place; in the first place, in our own minds: Alas! do mules cease to be disgusting beasts simply because they are laden with precious and perfumed goods of the prince? (ibid) asks Saint Francis de Sales. The parallels he sees between man’s life and that of beasts of burden is a very valid one, echoing the words of Scripture: ut iumentum factus sum apud te, Domine (Ps 72:23): we are like a donkey whose master, when he wishes to, loads with treasures of great value.

With permission from Scepter UK. Short excerpt from IN CONVERSATION WITH GOD by Francis Fernandez. Available at SinagTala or Totus Bookstore 723-4326 or www.totusbookstore.com.

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Last Updated on Friday, 14 September 2007 06:40
 

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