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Palm Sunday Reflection

Barbara Hecht, CND Associate

A common theme among the readings today is the relationship between humility and authority. True humility is not-self deprecating and has nothing to do with poor self-esteem. I understand humility as an awareness of our complete dependence on God who is Love. Humility is the recognition that God is the Source of all including one’s gifts and is the One to be glorified by them.

The sheer number of passages in both the Old and New Testaments teaching about humility speaks to its importance. It wasn’t until I heard Eckhart Tolle’s* distinction between the Ego and Being, that these very same passages, many of which I was very familiar with, became clear to me. Tolle explains that ego is not bad; in fact, it is necessary. Ego refers to our identification with external things, appearances, labels i.e. what I do, who I am, what I have. Whereas, Being is God’s presence within us. He emphasizes that the ego is not something to do away with, rather, something to be aware of as, by its very nature, it is insatiable and wants to be in charge. Our difficulties result from our over-identification with our ego and failure to recognize God’s presence within us (Being). Tolle says that, “In the eyes of the ego, self-esteem and humility are contradictory. In truth, they are one and the same.”

Jesus taught us about humility with words in parable after parable (patrician, grain of wheat, seating at the banquet…) and by his example. In his wonderful reflection on Mark’s account of Jesus’ Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, Jay Cormier** notes the central role that Mark gives the donkey. Jesus’ riding the donkey into Jerusalem is no accident. Cormier contrasts the custom of the pilgrims who would typically enter Jerusalem on foot with that of the “great kings and rulers who would ‘ride’ into the city, and usually on great steeds accompanied by a retinue of soldiers and servants.”

In Philippians we are told how Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…” In his humility, he recognizes God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the author and Source of life. Jesus’s authority is not self generated, not given to him from his followers, but springs from his most intimate relationship with his Father and our Father. It wasn’t the people who gave Jesus his authority; no, but they recognized his authority which stemmed from his rootedness in God. Yet, the learned hierarchy of Jesus’ day operated out of fear and lust for power (egos) and was threatened by the authority of Jesus. “For he knew it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.” (Mark 15:10)

We hear the author of Isaiah acknowledge the fact that God has given him a “well-trained tongue” and “every morning opens his ears that he may hear.” The author recognizes the gifts that have been given to him as well as the purpose of these gifts…” to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” Furthermore, he is aware that these very gifts will make him a target for those threatened by his giftedness. We know that Jesus Christ would later come to fulfill these prophetic words.

Without humility, even the most sincere follower will fall as did Peter who, even though he recognized Jesus as the Christ, crumpled under pressure. Regardless of our most sincere convictions and allegiance to God, when we fail to recognize our dependence on God we will flip into a default position of putting ourselves, someone else or something else in the center. This inevitably will result in pain and disappointment as no one or anything can take the place of God who alone fills us with love and peace. Despite our “unconsciousness” or tendency to let our egos reign, God is forever waiting with open arms. When we are open to God’s Presence, we experience life as richer, fuller, more joyful.

I can tell when I am getting off track, when my focus is shifting, and God is no longer central in my life; others’ opinions and reactions to me matter way too much, become far too important. In effect I am making them gods. Another telltale sign that I am loosing sight of the fact that God is central in my life is that I start to assume far too much responsibility for others, in effect, making myself a god. To date the only way I have found to keep myself in check, to avoid either extreme, is to be vigilant about my prayer life. I must be open to God’s active presence in my life, lest I and everyone with whom I am in contact lose out. I cut myself and them off from God who alone is Love, Life and Truth. If I open myself to God’s will, God uses whatever gifts I have been given and I experience the peace and joy that can only be known through God.

I can’t recommend highly enough an account of the most inspiring and beautiful life of humility that I’ve ever read…The Girl Who Learned How to Kneel: The Story of Etty Hillesum by Sr. Pa-tricia McCarthy, CND.

*(Eckhart Tolle is the author of The Power of Now and A New Earth)
**Jay Cormier Daily Reflections for LENT: Not by Bread Alone 2015

Barbara Hecht is a CND Associate who meets with the Wilton, CT group. She is the mother of 3 and a Parenting Educator.


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