TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – Sir 3:17f., 20, 28f. Heb 12:18f., 22-24 Lk 14:1, 7-14. Part of Correct Etiquette at the Banquet of Life: Humility. Humility in the Scheme of Things; Compassion Made Real in Gentleness; The Paradoxical Nature of Christianity.
Fagin, in Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, offered this personal tip to Oliver: “Some conjurers say that number three is the magic number, and some say number seven. It is neither, my friend, neither. It is number one.” He was, of course, referring to himself. Egomania knows no bounds. For example, on his deathbed, the French philosopher Auguste Comte was heard uttering this mournful cry as he expired, “What an irreparable loss!” Almost a century later, the equally chesty American novelist Theodore Dreiser had the gall to prepare his last words, “Shakespeare, I come!” At a dinner, the painter James Mc Neill Whistler, was overheard muttering, “If other people are going to talk, conversation becomes impossible.” Winston Churchill once admitted, “We are all worms, but I do believe I am a glow-worm.”

Perhaps one reason we find these sayings tolerable is that so many are willing to kid their own egotism. George Bernard Shaw, for example, once confessed, “I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.” And W.S. Gilbert once revealed that “You have no idea what a poor opinion I have of myself — and how little I deserve it.” Yet all of these are topped by Mark Twain’s tongue-in—cheek statement that recognized human pride, “Twenty- our years ago.. I was so handsome that human activities ceased as if spellbound when I came into view, and even inanimate things stopped to look — like locomotives and district messenger boys and so on. In San Francisco in the rainy season I was often taken for fair weather.”

By way of refreshing contrast, in the later years of John Millais, the painter, an art gallery in London had a show of his collected works. A visitor saw the painter coming from the collection with tears in his eyes. To the visitor’s questioning gaze, Millais looked up and said, “In looking at my earliest pictures I am overcome with chagrin that I have so far failed in my maturity to fulfil the full potential of my youth.” That is humility.