by Father Mike Stubbs
When the Scriptures address someone as a child, it often does not refer to the person’s chronological age.
Paul calls the Christians in Corinth his children, because he is their spiritual father: “I am writing you this not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (1 Cor 4:14-15).
Similarly, the letters of John often address their audience as children: “My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin” (1 Jn 2:1).
Here, though, it is not only the relationship to the writer that inspires this term. God’s relationship to us places us in that category as well. Consequently, the writer includes himself as a child of God:
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are” (1 Jn 3:1).
In using the term “children,” these writings of the New Testament follow the lead of the Old Testament. We see that in Sunday’s first reading, Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29.
It begins with the words: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility.” The reader is called “my child” to cast him or her into the role of listening to an older, presumably wiser, adult. That in itself should inspire humility.
It’s all about humility. The reading points out that humility impresses other people: “You will be loved more than a giver of gifts.” Humility will also impress God: “You will find favor with God.”
Those who are humble will recognize their own limitations. That is why the reading instructs us: “What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not.”
Humility will lead us to value the wisdom that comes from others: “The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs, and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.”
We should note that humility corresponds to the direct opposite of pride, one of the seven deadly sins. In fact, pride often ranks as the chief among them.
Having a positive self-image is not what is meant by pride as a deadly sin. Rather, it’s an inordinate emphasis upon one’s self. It’s self-glorification and self-reliance, to the point of refusing help from anyone else, even from God.
In contrast, humility opens us up to God’s grace. That is why it is so important.