Aesop tells a fable about a frog that wanted to fly. One day a stork landed in the cove and the frog had an idea. The stork was looking for minnows, but the frog’s noisy voice had driven them all away. So the frog offered the stork a deal: “If you help me fly, I will show you where the minnows’ secret hiding place is.”
The deal was made. The frog betrayed his minnow neighbors and the stork had a feast. Then the stork asked the frog, “Now, how am I going to help you fly?”
The frog said, “I’ll just take hold of one of your legs with my mouth and then as you fly, I can go with you.” And it worked out perfectly.
People on the ground looked up and saw the stork flying with the frog on his leg and they were marveling. One of them said, “I wonder which one of those animals came up with that brilliant idea?”
The frog opened his mouth to say, “It was entirely my idea.” And the consequence of his pride caused the frog to plummet to the earth.
And Aesop gives us this moral to the story: “Pride precedes the fall.”
We know that to be true, for pride precedes our falls as well. Pride attacks us when we are successful and we begin congratulating ourselves. Pride accepts no criticism. Pride sees everyone else as a subordinate. Pride expects to be on a par with God – or even above Him!
In the early days, the Fathers of the Church put pride at the top of the list of the seven deadly sins: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth.
The Scriptures today speak about humility. The first reading from the Old Testament, the Book of Sirach, has this line: “Children, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.” And isn’t that true? Humble people are wonderful people to be around.
In the Gospel Jesus teaches us about humility. He talks about a wedding banquet: those who would seek the place of honor at the table and then are moved to a lower place, and those who would seek the lowest place and be invited to come higher. Jesus says to us, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Imagine how refreshing your work place or school or social circle would be if there were no more games of one-upsmanship, or posturing to be noticed, or worrying about networking with the powerful and popular for personal advantage.
Jesus is teaching us a new way of life where we are not competitors but companions on the journey, where life is not a castle to be conquered but a banquet to be shared, where we do not need to struggle and grab for power because power is only to be used to serve other people. And Jesus mentions some of them in today’s Gospel: “the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.”
Now you may think that we are making a little too much of first-century table etiquette. But may I remind you that character is formed and character is revealed in the little things.
In many job interviews there is a golf game or a meal out. Why? Because our character comes through especially at moments when we think that nobody is watching. The ways that we treat the most invisible people in society reveal what we think of human society.
The little things are important. And a table is a good place to start, and that is where Jesus teaches us in today’s Gospel.
In the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, there is a powerful lesson in the shape of that table. There was no head or foot. Rather, it was round. Every knight mattered and could have a place at that table.
In His humility, Jesus chose to be with us at His table, at this altar. Here we are nourished with His Word in the Scriptures and with His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Here everyone matters and everyone can have a place.
It is here that we grow together as one family in Christ. For we all need His grace, His mercy and His providential care.
“Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
“Children, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.”
Monday, 9:00 a.m. – St. Joseph, Amherst
Tuesday, 8:00 a.m. – Nativity of the BVM
Thursday, 7:00 p.m. – St. Joseph
Friday, 9:00 a.m. – St. Joseph