Halloween is a time when we can put on masks and be someone else for a day. My grandniece is a pumpkin this year; my grandnephew is a monkey. They know it’s pretend, and they know who they really are. We have all had the experience of asking a toddler at the door, “Are you Snow White?” and getting the response, “No, it’s Julie!” As adults, we sometimes wear masks and costumes that express who we would like to be, often the exact opposite of who we really are. No matter if the costume is elegant, scary, silly, or shocking, we still want to look good and be seen as clever. I don’t dress up for Halloween anymore, but that is not to say that I don’t sometimes wear masks.
Today’s Gospel reading is the parable of the invited guests who choose places of honor at the table. We are told that we should instead take the lowest place so that the host will ask us to move up to a higher place to enjoy the esteem of others at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:11)
Taking this quotation out of context has led to false ideas about humility. We think that humility means belittling one’s own gifts, talents, accomplishments, or importance. What underlies this attitude is sometimes a desire to receive the praise and adulation of others. For example, when someone pays us a compliment, “That’s such a stunning image. You’re an amazing photographer,” the humble response is “Thank you” or “Thank you for your kind words”, and not “It’s nothing. Anybody can do that.”
Humility means that I am just who I am – no more, no less – and happy about who I am. Humility means that I have a clear perspective and respect for my place in a particular context and my relationships with others. I recognize the person I am in relation to God, my Creator. There are no masks beyond Halloween Day.
Quoting C. S. Lewis, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”