Low to the Ground

There was a story that my mom told me when I was little. It was the story of a little boy who was taken to Carnegie Hall to watch a concert by a great pianist. The wait before the show was long, and apparently the maestro who was supposed to play came to the concert hall late. Bored, the boy slipped away from his mother, made his way to the platform, sat down at the concert piano and began to play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. The crowd reacted with anger and shouted to the mother to take the boy away. “How dare you touch that expensive piano!” “What a brat! get out!” The great maestro came in, went to the piano, and began playing along with the boy. Whispering to the boy, “Keep going. Don’t quit, son. Keep playing!”
I took piano lessons for quite sometime. So, that story resonated with me back then. The lesson I learned was that I should never give up on playing piano. But the more I think about it, that story speaks more about the maestro’s attitude toward that little brat. With his great fame and power he had a choice to be mad at that little boy by calling a security guard to take the boy away for he is defaming the ambiance of the concert hall that was designed for him alone and make him look very unprofessional. But the maestro chose to play along with the boy. Had he chosen to treat the boy with a negative attitude, I wouldn’t have heard this great story about a humble great maestro.

Humility in Hebrews and Greek, the language of our Bible, means low, as low to the ground. John Dickson, a historian, writes that Humility is a willingness to hold power in service of others. It is a not mere modesty. Humility is more about how I treat others than how I think about myself. Ancient Israel believes that humility before God was appropriate as was humility before judges, kings, and priests. But lowering ourselves before a person with an equal or lesser status in early biblical times was regarded as something weird. Of course we should bow our head in front of a king. But bowing before our friends or a servant? You better check your head when you start doing that! It was not until a great Jewish teacher from Nazareth came to change that whole paradigm. He said: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28
Jesus turned the whole notion of greatness upside down. Apostle Paul captured Jesus’ act of humility in a beautiful hymn of praise: Jesus who was God, did not take advantage of his equality with God; but he made himself nothing, humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)
Capital punishment was reserved by Romans for political rebels and slaves, the most brutal and the most shameful punishment became the symbol of power and greatness. Crucifixion was not evidence of Jesus’ humiliation but the evidence that greatness can express itself in humility. Jesus took the hard road by lowering himself all the way down to the ground in order to elevate us, sinners. On the cross God through Jesus says I the Maker of the Heaven and Earth will suffer with you — for you– to make things right between us again.
St. Benedict says: We descend by exaltation and ascend by humility. Humility is exaltation. Life is not about me. Life is about God and benefiting others. Humility is an understanding that we are not in control of our lives but God, and everything we have: our talents, our possessions are from God and we should use them to lift each other’s up. We should embody the attitude of John the Baptist when he said: “This joy of mine is now complete, He must increase but I must decrease.”

Friends, with that in mind, I pray that today you find Jesus, the great maestro, who accepts our inadequacies and chooses to play that beautiful melody alongside of you.

Love and prayers,

Vincent Arishvara 05122016