Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019

     Years back I read that after he was tapped to co-host the “Today Show” on NBC, TOM BROKAW took the occasion of a free afternoon to go shopping.  As he meandered through the aisles of Bloomingdale’s, he was feeling quite content with himself. He felt that he had finally reached the pinnacle of his career in broadcasting, after having worked for years at a small, affiliate television station in Omaha and then for NBC in Los Angeles.  As he mused on his success, Brokaw suddenly realized that a man nearby was staring at him. Brokaw was certain that he was about to be recognized and congratulated on his new celebrity status.

     Pointing his finger, the man said, “Tom Brokaw, right?”

     “Right,” responded Brokaw.

     “You used to do the morning news on KMTV in Omaha, right?”

     “Right again,” said Brokaw, as he prepared for the usual accolades and fanfare that so often come with being famous.

     “I recognized you the minute I saw you,” said the man.  “By the way, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO YOU?”


     Since that chance encounter in 1976, Tom Brokaw went on to achieve even greater success.  He served as the anchor for “NBC Nightly News” from 1982. to 2004; during which time he covered Watergate; the fall of the Berlin Wall; and the 9/11 terrorists attacks.  And he authored a book (which became a national “best seller”) about those who grew up during the Great Depression and then went on to fight in World War II, entitled “The Greatest Generation.”  Nevertheless, despite his undeniable career success, Brokaw revealed, in a recent interview, that whenever he is tempted to become blinded by the aura of his “fame,” he calls to mind that ego-deflating question: “Whatever happened to you?”


     While sitting for her effigy at Madame Tussard’s Wax Museum; singer-songwriter and highest paid entertainer in America last year,Taylor Swift, asked the manager what happens to the wax images they made of people who CEASED to be celebrities.  Without blinking an eye, the manager of Madame Tussard’s told Swift, “We melt them down and reuse the wax!”


     Makes you stop to THINK, doesn’t it?!


     PRIDE and HUMILITY is the “tightrope” we’ll probably all be walking for as long as we’re walking the face of this earth! — PRIDE (the unwholesome kind), means living in ILLUSION; and HUMILITY (the wholesome kind) means living in the TRUTH. — And “living in the truth” should be the GOAL of our lives, because Jesus promised us that the “truth will set us free!”


     UNWHOLESOME PRIDE takes different forms in different people.  For some of us, it’s SLAVERY to a LIFESTYLE that’s supposed to PROVE to everyone around us that we’re “different” and “better” than the rest of humankind! — For some of us, UNWHOLESOME PRIDE “rears its ugly head” in a FIERCE COMPETITIVENESS in even the silliest of things — in the need “to win” at all costs — in the need to PROVE that we’re different and better — in the need “TO HAVE” : the biggest house, the most expensive car, the latest fashion, the most up-to-date stereo or DVD or computer or whatever!


     For some of us, UNWHOLESOME PRIDE is all in the head — gathering up knowledge about arcane subjects — to “wow” our friends when watching “Jeopardy” or “Weakest Link” — once again, to PROVE that we’re different, smarter, and better than the rest of humankind!


     Whatever it’s shape, UNWHOLESOME PRIDE is always UGLY!  It leads to COMPARISONS, which almost always lead to placing one person in a higher or lower position than others.  (Our whole advertising industry is based on “comparisons” trying to make us feel that if we don’t have the best and the biggest, then we’re somehow LESS than others! — [TRUE STORY — A clever salesman once closed hundreds of sales with the LINE: “Let me show you something several of your neighbors said you couldn’t afford!”]  


     And the worst thing about UNWHOLESOME PRIDE with its SILLY COMPARISONS is that it CUTS US OFF from other people and DEPRIVES us of the one thing that we REALLY WANT in this life — COMMUNION — to be accepted and cherished by other people simply for WHO and WHAT we are! — And therein lies the IRONY!  Sooo many people work so hard to prove they’re SPECIAL; only to end up “scorned” and “alone.” Jesus really knew what he was talking about; because “Whoever EXALTS himself WILL wind up being HUMBLED! — Not by God; but by what they’ve “BECOME” ——– trying to “become SOMEBODY”!


     So, what about the ALTERNATIVE to UNWHOLESOME PRIDE — HUMILITY?  At first glance, “humility” doesn’t look like a very tempting “option”!  Somehow, we’ve gotten it into our heads that “humility” means becoming a HUMAN DOORMAT! —  But nothing could be further from the truth! — The “sniveling, groveling, and self-effacing” brushing off of all praise and minimizing of our gifts when they are pointed out to us, is NOT HUMILITY AT ALL! — In fact, the “sniveling-doormat” kind of FAKE HUMILITY is actually INGRATITUDE TO GOD, who gave us the good gifts that we have so that we can DEVELOP them, ENJOY them, and SHARE them!


     So what does REAL, AUTHENTIC, BIBLICAL HUMILITY look like? — The REAL, WHOLESOME HUMILITY to which Jesus calls us is TRUTH!  It means KNOWING who we are and who we are not!


     And, the TRUTH of the matter is that some people ARE: smarter, more talented, better looking, thinner, richer, and wittier than others.  That’s just how life is! — God has created each of us so that we have DIFFERENT abilities, different talents, different intelligence and so forth.  And, “different” isn’t “better,” in God’s eyes; it’s just “different”!


     When we use our intelligence, or talents, or looks, or possessions as a way of PUTTING OTHER PEOPLE DOWN; than an UNWHOLESOME PRIDE has got a grip on our lives, and we are NOT living in the TRUTH!  If we have the attitude that you can judge another human being by his or her score on an IQ test; or by the size of his or her bank account – (as though intelligent or wealthy people were somehow better, or worth more, or something like that) — then we know we’ve “missed the boat,” at least the way God sees things!


     In God’s eyes, we are ALL of INFINITE WORTH no matter how we look, or what we know, or how much we possess!  As far as God is concerned, UNDER THE SKIN, we’re ALL the SAME! — made from the same earth, short-lived, in need of one another’s help, and destined to grow old and die!


     THAT’S the TRUTH about us!  And once we face up to that “TRUTH”; once we face our own pains and fears and our need for help; THEN we will begin to see and understand that everyone else has those very same needs and fears. —— And THEN we will begin to recognize one another as brothers and sisters.  And the thought of trying to PROVE that we’re somehow different or better will be EXPOSED as bizarre, irrelevant, and a lie!

     Once we’ve HUMBLY faced this TRUTH; then we’ll find that we’re not alone anymore.  We’ll find that we’re surrounded by fellow pilgrims, all walking the same road home to God!  And we’ll see that JESUS WAS RIGHT! If we HUMBLE ourselves, (that is, if we EMBRACE the TRUTH about OURSELVES), we will be “EXALTED.” ——  And we won’t even have to wait for heaven for that “exaltation” to begin!


     When all is said and done, the AUTHENTIC HUMILITY to which Jesus is calling us today, doesn’t mean thinking less of ourselves  than of other people; nor does it mean having a low opinion of our own gifts. The AUTHENTIC HUMILITY to which Jesus Christ is calling you and me today – means FREEDOM from having to think about ourselves, one way or the other, at all!


     The story is told of two elderly gentlemen who were talking, one day, about the wisdom and humility that come with age.  “When I was young,” said one of them, “I was very proud and my pride was a real source of anxiety for me. I was constantly worrying about what other people thought of me. — When I grew older and wiser, I said to myself, ‘I don’t care what other people think of me.’ —–  And now that I’m even older and wiser, I realize that THEY weren’t thinking about ME at all!”