Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
Widen the circle of Love
“They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.'
As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.'
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers…
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Matthew 23:6-8, 12
Preaching on a passage with a similar theme (you know the one from Luke about taking the lowest place at table?), a homilist once pointed out, “If you are humbling yourself in order to be exalted, that’s not really humility.” He’s right! It’s just pride in sheep’s clothing. It reveals an underlying preoccupation with being perceived as humble, which entirely misses the point of humility.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis describes what it would be like to meet a truly humble person, “He will not be thinking about humility; he will not be thinking about himself at all.” True humility is an antidote to preoccupation with the self, with our titles or our righteousness or even our “rightness.” That preoccupation is part of what Christ identifies as the besetting sin of the scribes and the Pharisees.
A common thread in today’s readings is a fundamental call to transformation. In the first reading we are insistently called to transform the scarlet of our sin to the white of snow. The first reading affirms that not only is transformation possible, it is necessary.
So, what in me needs to be transformed this Lent? In truth, I don’t think it’s all that different from the Pharisees and scribes. For you, it might be something else. As I think about how to put my ego in its proper place, this poem comes to mind:
“Love propels us beyond the circle of ego, and puts the welfare of others ahead of — or at least alongside — our own.
Love spills over, beyond our ego, towards our family, our neighbors, our friends. But it must not stop there. Widen the circle of love.
Love puts the welfare of many families ahead of one’s own families, but it must not stop there. Widen the circle of love.
Love can bring together the many people living inside an imagined boundary, but it must not stop there. Widen the circle of love.
If instead of being projected along a national border, it projects towards embrace of a whole religious community, that, too, is a move towards the global and the universal. But it must not stop there. Widen the circle of love.” — Omid Safi
In this period of great division, I pray that in growing closer to God we widen our circles of love across ideologies, fear, and all that divides us.
Tommies Together Volunteer Center