Image: Mountains and Hills of the Ogilvie Range, Yukon Territory
Today’s first reading begins with the image of a trial. In the midst of the greatest courtroom ever imagined the prophet Micah shares the word of the Lord asking the people to plead their case before the mountains and hills. The crimes for which they are standing judged are greed, corruption, and failure to honor the covenant that God had made with them when they were released from their bondage in Egypt.
What would it take to make restitution, what would God accept as payment for their misconduct? One might think that, to appease a God who holds all of creation in His hands, it would be a price far beyond human comprehension. Instead it is just the opposite. Micah tells the people that God is not seeking sacrifice beyond reason but is asking for simple justice and fairness, loving kindness, and a change in attitude so that the people and God might walk together again in peace.
The attitude that Micah is talking about is humility, the ability to recognize that, as humans, though we are created in the image and likeness of God, we are not Gods. Despite the monuments and edifices that we build and the accomplishments that we achieve in so many areas of life, we are still called to recognize that it is God who is the master builder and the Lord who is all deserving of the credit.
This lack of humility is present in today’s Gospel reading as well. Jesus has performed many healings and miracles and yet the scribes and Pharisees are still not satisfied. As they keep asking for more, Jesus reminds them of the story of the prophet Jonah with which I am sure we are all familiar. Jonah thought he knew better than God and refused to preach to the Ninevites because he thought they were beyond redemption. God showed Jonah that, even in the most hard-hearted society, there is still a chance for conversion. The miracle of Jonah surviving three days in the belly of a fish was insignificant compared to what God was able to do with the people of Nineveh. As they turned their hearts back to God and expressed sincere humility they showed the real sign that Jesus was looking for in the Pharisees.
We might think that humility is not a helpful characteristic and that it carries a negative connotation. We are taught early to take pride in who we are and to compete for the top prizes that life has to offer. But to be truly humble is not to deny ourselves but only to realize that we have been given so much. Humility requires good insight and wisdom. The saying goes that God looks after fools and children. God needs to because fools and children do not know how to look after themselves, they do not understand the consequences of their actions and they do not understand their place in the scheme of things. The wise person knows that there are some things that you just should not do and that includes placing ourselves higher than God.
The judgment of the Lord revealed by the prophet Micah was for the people to recognize that what they had and all they had accomplished came from God. The way for them to prove that they understood this was in how they conducted themselves with one another, exercising justice and by treating the poor fairly and with compassion.
We might ask ourselves in what areas of our life do we need to give God more credit so that we can step back and acknowledge the many blessings that we have received and be more open to sharing those blessing with others. Exercise humility and be grateful for what God has done for you.