Preacher’s Sketchbook: Thirty-First Sunday of the Year

October 26, 2011

Each week, a Dominican member of the Provincial Preaching Advisory board prepares this Preacher’s Sketchbook in anticipation of the upcoming Sunday Mass.  The idea of the Preacher’s Sketchbook is to take quotations from the authority of the Church–the Pope, the Fathers of the Church, documents of the Councils, the saints–that can help spark ideas for the Sunday homily.   Just as an artist’s sketchbook preserves ideas for later elaboration, so we hope the Preacher’s Sketchbook will provide some ideas for homiletical elaboration.



St. Augustine

While Scripture is spiritual in itself, nonetheless it often, so to say, adapts itself to carnal materialistic people in a carnal, materialistic way. But it doesn’t want them to remain carnal and materialistic. A mother, too, loves to nurse her infant, but she doesn’t love it so that it will always remain a baby. She holds it in her bosom, she cuddles it with her hands, she comforts it with caresses, she feeds it with her milk. She does all this for the baby, but she wants it to grow, so that she won’t be doing this sort of thing forever. Now look at the Apostle. We can fix our eyes on him all the more suitably because he wasn’t above calling himself a mother.

St. Thomas Aquinas

Humility mainly concerns a person’s subjection to God, for whose sake he also submits himself to others.… The proper role of humility is for a man to restrain himself from being carried away by craving things above him. For this it is necessary that he should recognize where his abilities fail to match that which surpasses them. And therefore the knowledge of one’s own deficiency is a condition of humility as a rule and criterion moderating one’s appetite…. The role of humility is curbing pushfulness…. Humility properly regards the reverence which bows down before God…. Humility controls motions of sanguine self-assurance mounting to greatness…. Humility holds the initial place [in our relationship with God] in that it expels pride, which God resists, and makes a man submissive and ready to receive divine favor…. Humility’s rule lies in a judgment not reckoning ourselves to be above what we are.

Blessed John Paul II:

You have one master, the Christ (Mt 23: 10). The Gospel passage we heard a few moments ago recounts Jesus’ dispute with the scribes and Pharisees. Echoing the voice of the Old Testament prophets (cf. Mal 2: 1-10), Jesus condemns their hypocrisy based on the presumption of being righteous before God. This is an attitude that removes man from the path of good. And it is an attitude that can lurk today in the human heart. Jesus’ words warn us against every ‘Pharisaism’, that is, from the concern for appearances, from the easy compromise with falseness and the temptation to assert ourselves independently of the divine will. Before man’s proud pretence of being able to do without God, Jesus, the real Master, addresses a pressing invitation to receive the action of divine grace with humble openness: ‘Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted’ (Mt 23: 12).

Pope Benedict XVI

Jesus, rather than concerning himself with individuals, intends to target the practices of the Pharisees as a spiritual illness that can attack persons and institutions in all ages. Jesus sets against the negative picture of an empty, formalistic religiosity characterized by a cruel legalism, dominated by men greedy for power, honor and success, the vision of a radically different community. The picture Jesus presents is one of a community where greatness is proportional to humility and where a person gets ahead or ‘makes a career’, so to speak, thanks to the impulse of charity. Jesus had before his eyes the spectacle of the Scribes and Pharisees: they were experts in Sacred Scripture and assiduously frequented the Temple, but their hearts were cold, icy, unchanged by the encounter with God. In a word, they were fakes! Consequently, Jesus seriously reproves them and challenges them with the fact that they were very strict with others but on the contrary, most lenient with themselves. Saints, on the other hand, do the exact opposite: they are hard on themselves but understanding and patient with others, always seeking to forgive.

Msgr. Luigi Giussani

Man cannot be humble if on the one hand he refuses his nothingness and if on the other he does not understand and acknowledge the victory of Another, the victorious Presence.

Fr. Simon Tugwell, O.P.

Most of our obstinacy covers up a certain degree of emptiness, a certain degree of dishonesty, of masquerading and posturing, of being uncertain of ourselves; that is why it has to be so unyielding. It can only preserve itself at the expense of a certain ruthlessness, maybe even cruelty and disregard of others. All too often it will be driven to defend itself by deliberate ideological distancing of itself from others: ‘I am this, not that’… All disordered self-possession must be unlearned if we are to be made truly blessed. We must be weaned from ourselves and our grip on ourselves. And the normal way in which we are weaned is by being exposed to situations of mental, emotional, and spiritual deprivation. God make me rid of any ‘God’ that I can treat as an object, that I can make my own.”

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M.Cap.

Perfect humility consists in constantly making oneself small, not for the sake of some personal need or benefit, but for the sake of love, to elevate others.

Louis Lavelle

True humility is the utter abasement of my whole being to the earth, and it demands of me a supreme uplifting of my soul to God. For no one makes himself naught except to let God fill the void…. Self-contempt deprives us of all our resources, while humility establishes their limits, so that we may use them better.

Other Resources

Readings for Thirty-First Sunday of the Year (Year A)

Additional Preaching Resources

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