This homily is based on Matthew 11:25-30.
The words of our Lord today is a loud and clear invitation to me:
“Dethrone yourself!” he tells me.
It’s a tough invitation. It’s simply against our DNA to “dethrone ourselves.” We all have a need for honor and social approval. The only problem is, sometimes we get carried away, and honor and social approval become addictive drugs, and before we know it, we find in ourselves a black hole for affirmation and approval.
So for each of us, our Lord today exalts the “little ones,” telling us that it is not to the wise and learned that God reveals himself, but to those who are humble.
If we take our Lord’s words seriously, we’ll realize that it’s not at all an easy thing to do! Everyone else is doing the exact opposite! The more fashionable thing these days is self-exaltation, as opposed to the self-diminishment that Jesus calls for. Everywhere around us, people are trying to claw their way up–and the higher they climb, the more honor they accumulate and the more honor they crave. Jesus’ challenge to us is to go against this tide: to opt instead for a descent, to diminish ourselves, to find our way to the lowest rung of the ladder because that’s exactly what he did during his earthly life.
By becoming human, our Lord vacated his heavenly throne in order to be among us. And when he was among us, he didn’t bother to make a reservation in some five-star hotel. He was born to a poor family, lived very simply as a carpenter before beginning a ministry that catered to the least, the lowest, and the last of Israel. And as we know, he allowed himself to die the lowliest of deaths, nailed by the Romans to the cross as a criminal, rejected by his own people, and deserted by his closest disciples and friends.
It is this Jesus who today invites us to likewise dethrone ourselves.
Now, what does it mean to dethrone ourselves? What does this self-diminishment entail?
Our Lord is not referring to false modesty or self-deprecation–when we refuse to accept well-deserved compliments or when we, for whatever reason, treat ourselves harshly. At best, false modesty and self-deprecation betray an irrational insecurity or a psychologically unhealthy lack of self-esteem. At worst, they are unconsciously used as an insincere–though socially acceptable–device to fish for more compliments.
Today’s call for self-diminishment entails something much more ordinary and mundane. Just think of the way we treat the so-called “little people” in our lives, those who by sheer fortune end up in a socio-economically inferior class to us, those who simply have not been given enough opportunity in life. It’s not hard to do at this time of the pandemic: These are the worst affected!
But recall in your previous life the frazzled waiter in that crowded restaurant who, for the nth time, gets your orders wrong. Or that young saleslady in the mall who, because she’s new and nervous in her job, is taking an awfully long time figuring out the cash register. And don’t forget the driver who–believe it or not–commits the unthinkable in this age of Google Map and Waze: He loses his way, or worse, as if it’s such a crime in Metro Manila, he gets you stuck in traffic.
What happens to you in such occasions? What do you find yourselves feeling and what do you actually end up saying to them? When we ourselves are tired or are in a rush, it’s quite normal to feel frustration and to run out of patience. It’s quite understandable to feel that you’re entitled to more effective service. After all, you are paying for their services! Don’t you deserve better? Shouldn’t your precious time not be wasted
So what to do? We could allow our impatience to get the better of us and feel contempt for the waiter or the saleslady or the driver. Worse, we could end up–in spite of our better selves–expressing this contempt, uttering hurtful words and even not feel any remorse, but self-righteousness. In the process, we end up exalting ourselves even if we do so at the expense of those we consider little or lowly.
But we could also choose to do something else: We could listen to our better angels and do what the Gospel tells us today: We could join them and be among the little ones, vacating our seats of honor and dethroning ourselves. In a word–and more precisely–we could humble ourselves.
We all of us have private little thrones that we have unwittingly sequestered for ourselves. We have reserved discreetly hidden seats of honor on which we have happily perched ourselves. If we want to follow the Lord Jesus, if we want to be like him, we need to give up our seats of honor. We need to vacate our thrones.
So can you identify those secret seats of honor and private little thrones? Here’s a tip: They are usually revealed when we are tired and frustrated.
Nobody said humility was easy, but it’s the surest way to heart of the Lord.
12 replies on “THE DIFFICULT ART OF SELF-DETHRONEMENT”
Definitely one of the hardest things to do in following Jesus… I thought I was already humble (modesty aside), until I met my match in my teenage brother-in-law, who I deem to be ingrateful and disrespectful, despite all the care (and expenses) we provide to him.
“Despite all the care (and expenses) we provide to him” – this line here is the ‘chair’ that perches me up on my throne. And when my teenage brother-in-law engaged me in a shouting match, my heart hardened and darkened towards him, that to this day (after 1 week), I still cannot find it in my heart to forgive and get back to our usual ways. What’s even more difficult is this thought that, if I will humble myself in front of him, it will only embolden him to continue his arrogant, disrespectful, and ingrateful ways.
But God is definitely not pleased with our situation. His peace evades me and it is breaking me apart inside.
Please pray for me that God will guide my heart to do His will. May He reveal His will in how to resolve our situation, in the way that is best for my teenage brother-in-law. And may God soften my heart so I can find the strength to forgive.
This is a great homily! I totally get it! Since we’ve always known that the Word of God is meant not only to be heard but to be acted on, I’ll try to work on the art of self-dethronement especially during these trying times.
Thank you, Fr. Johnny!
Yes, I find this helpful to pray for patience during situations when I can feel my blood boiling over silly interactions. We are all human and we need to stop and think of the other rather than ourselves. Get off our high horse and be loving and go giving
thank you for this , it keep me grounded again .
Amen! Teach us, O Lord, Your ways!?
Convertion could take a lifetime. But we can start now to practise humility. It’s actually dying to oneself – we have to ask God to help us to make this happen. Thank you for this great homily.
Simplicity and humility are indeed very timely messages during these challenging times when some people, especially those in sensitive, influential and powerful positions, have lost their sense of sin and/or sense of delicadeza. Thank you for the reminder, Father J.
Why do we love ourselves too much ? Is it because we feel we are not loved by anyone?
Why do we feel we are not loved? Are we entitled to be loved and respected?
Why do we feel we are entitled to be loved and respected?
These questions will go round and round ” like a spinning wheel” circling ” like the wind upon the wind”. But if we stand still, we realize it is pride that makes us so self driven, so egoistic. We fear that if we let go of our self-esteem, we will be downtrodden by others. But if we bring our fears and pride to the Lord, He will give us rest.
Happy Sunday, Fr. J. May the Lord keep you safe.
Our usual excuse is we are just human . Every act is always a struggle. For me I wil try to put myself in his or her position , which is genuinely better for me in the end. This winning moments are what we need today !
Thank you dear Lord Almighty, my God and my King. The past week was so emotional for me because I felt so entitled to the credits that was given to somebody else. I may be crashed of the injustice done and hurt my ego, but the experience made me look deep inside myself. I’m humbled when I looked and realized that you’ve gone through so much more than what I went through. Help me fix my ego problem and issues with injustice. I am just grateful I am able to receive your grace and bore the pain with poise. It would have been another story had I retaliated and did not pray over that painful experience. I ask for your forgiveness oh merciful God for my pride and sense of entitlement. Please help me remove these little thrones I intend to build for myself. I pray for a supportive and loving community at work. Amen.
Thank you for this reminder! Yes it is not easy to be humble. Takes a lot of effort and courage and Gods Grace.
More power pinsoflight! ?