It is good to be humble by Noel Ihebuzor

 

I am sharing Today’s readings from the catholic liturgy with you along with some of my rambling and uncoordinated reflections on them.

The uniting theme in the first and third readings this Sunday is that of HUMILITY. Our God, through these readings invites us to be, become and remain humble. The gospel chooses a social event we can all relate to – a wedding, to illustrate how critical it is to be humble. In a world where we all grow up acquiring assertiveness, self-focus and self-marketing as key survival and social mobility skills, a message that focuses on humility is not very likely to receive the warmest of receptions. Yes, such a message could be perceived as irrelevant, outdated and in fact, threatening and subversive. And yet this same message that we could see as subversive with its key focus on humility should indeed be one of the principal chapters in our Vade Mecum, our little journey companion booklet  of useful precepts for a happy life on earth and the hereafter.

Humility is salutary and elevating for all of humanity who God created in an act of humility (making humanity in His own image and likeness) and boundless love. Later when humanity fell from a combination of a failure of humility and unbridled aspiration, God again reunited/reconciled humanity to Himself through another act of love involving Jesus Christ who himself was and is a perfect model of humility. However, in life, it is not uncommon to find that we as humans turn away from God’s precepts for effective living, given what we consider to be the unpalatable nature and “subversive-ness” of God’s logic. Yet our judgments on such matters are flawed precisely because of the time bounded-ness of human rationality! For are we not reminded, and correctly too, that what is wise to us humans could be folly in God’s scheme of things.

But let us return for a moment on the situation in the parable and you will immediately also see why it is prudent and practical to show humility. You arrive at a social event. Knowing yourself to be Mr. or Mrs. “Big Stuff”, the Boss, you immediately place yourself high, on the high table, as the expression now goes in Nigeria. And as you settle in to enjoy your high status and what you imagine to be the envy of those not as privileged as you in the audience, someone higher and “bigger” than yourself arrives and the Master of Ceremonies promptly moves you down – you are down stepped, rank shifted but to a lower level! You lose face! You are embarrassed! You could have avoided this with some humility! You are now the center of attention but for the wrong reasons and right at this moment I suspect that you begin to appreciate the jeopardy and sad destination that your pride, arrogance and lack of humility have led you to. Those who lack humility eventually drink from the bitter cup of humiliation and disgrace. And faint echoes from the scripture verses that God comes against the arrogant and the proud and elevates the lowly begin to hum in your head. The wages of the vice of lack of humility is humiliation – public and personal!

I am sure the reader has come across instances where lack of humility has shown its ugly face. And the instances are myriad – from the big man and woman who refuse to take their places in queues in public places, through to the inflated public servant who uses the siren to navigate his/her unnecessary convoy in our crowded and manner-less traffic and thereby compound its challenges to the “academic”, who lacking any real self knowledge and utterly deficient in emotional intelligence, prances around in our social spaces and media in vain efforts to project himself/herself by trying to comment/pronounce on everything under the sun, and who ends up displaying not knowledge but the profundity of his/her superficiality and biases. The vices of arrogance and egoism drive such people and occlude their eyes and ears to the appeals of good sense, but eventually humiliation proves to be their nemesis, as it is for all who reject humility.

Let us now turn and look at the rewards of humility. Christ humbled himself even to becoming a man and further to enduring death on the cross and because of this humility, He has been elevated above all creatures and sits at the right hand of God. The image of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 stands in sharp contrast to that of the Messiah clothed in glory!  The difference is clear. You humble yourself, God exalts you, God elevates you; you elevate yourself, God humbles you! This is the complete reversal of logic, at least to us humans.

The Beatitudes are another part of the Christian scriptures that overflow with this same reversal of and challenge to conventional wisdom. (I use “conventional wisdom” in the sense that JK Galbraith, that famous scholar and economist, used it to describe a self-serving, convenient and “feel good” wisdom/belief that is in vogue even when its purveyors know that it is not always true – here, expedience and convenience triumph over truth and true wisdom). But let us return to our main theme of the uplifting value of humility, how by lowering oneself before God, you actually get to elevate yourself. Read Matthew’s account of the “Sermon on the Mount” and you will notice a similar subversion. You will be jolted by it. On the question of humility, verses 3 and 4 are most apposite, though there is an internal coherence in all these “reversed” values, for it is only when one is truly meek and poor in spirit (read poor in spirit to mean “one who disdains haughtiness, egoism, arrogance, self-pride and abandons himself/herself willingly to God’s superior reason and logic”) that one becomes clean of heart, can show mercy, can become a peacemaker etc. And notice the rewards – inheriting the earth, admission into the kingdom of heaven, comfort, receiver of mercies unlimited!

Wow, real wow! Wetin una dey wait for? Oya, let us all “hanlele” and “forward quick march” to the barracks of humility – to borrow Zebrudia-Jegede type of language!

The Magnificat, which I call Mary’s love song also takes up this theme of humility. Read it loud, recite it and dance along with it and live it its core message in your every day life. See what the Lord has done to His lowly servant. Read it and marvel – see how God has exalted the lowly Mary, how he has filled the hungry with good things! Yes, God elevates and rewards the humble, those who like Mary called themselves the handmaid of the Lord, and those who surrender to his love, to his wisdom, to his beautiful purpose. Contrast this to the “reward” of the proud, the rich, the conceited whom he has scattered with their conceit and sent away empty. Read empty to also mean “deflated”, like a balloon that has pin pricked and which now engages in a zigzag of uncoordinated and direction-less motion as air escapes from it. Soon the former swollen balloon becomes hollow, form-less and crumpled and devoid of any bounce. Yes, it is now emptied…of its former force, of its former appeal, of its former beauty! All that “dengue pose’ don vanish patapata. All that shakara don go…all “dat waka kuru-kere” don finish. Ditto for the arrogant bounce! Given all this, the wise must flee vanity, arrogance and pride like pests.

Yes, Choose humility! Leave behind your haughtiness, leave behind your pride, leave behind your sense of power and might, leave behind your self seeking…yes, leave all these things behind – they are vanities, yes, vanity upon vanity and lead us nowhere except to trap us in a ever widening circle  of quick sands of beauty seeking, land grabbing, election rigging, embezzlement, corrupt practices, rent seeking behavior and arrogance – all of which end up sucking us into a morass of emptiness, spiritual, emotional and social, to bottomless emptied and emptying voids somewhat akin, and here I stray dangerously into physics, to Einsteinian type black holes from which once sucked in, return and escape are virtually impossible. Vanity, arrogance and pride are also like malignant tumors. They germinate, grow and flourish in souls devoid of spiritual nutrients and godly medication. In no time, they will be crowding out the live tissues of humility, self respect and respect for others. Soon, they will be suffocating and choking the living daylights out of you. Flee them. Run from them. Run to the new life. Embrace the new life – a life that stresses humility, kindness, mercy, contentment and openness to God and neighbor.

Take a look around us and notice how those who have humbled themselves, those who have reasoned along the elevating humility lines of John the Baptist have been elevated.have stood out in contemporary history – Gandhi was an epitome of humility – yet his greatness lay there-in. Buddha was humble, so was Confucius. Coming closer home, Mother Theresa, Mandela..each story tells itself.

Two men person go into a place of prayer – and one spends time running God through a documentary of achievements, good deeds, alms giving, fidelity in religious observances, self appraised moral correctness. The other simply kneels down and recalls and accepts his/her sinfulness and shortcomings and asks God for forgiveness and Grace to move ahead and beyond. God accepts the latter not the former! The message again is clear – God accepts the humble and comes against the arrogant.

So are you humble?  And if you are, what are the indicators of that humility?

·      tolerance for the views of others?

·      self abasement?

·      openness to criticism?, accepting you could be wrong?

·      not being boastful, arrogant or conceited?

·      adoption of simplicity and temperance as core life values?

What are your answers to the questions above? And, what of this writer? Am I humble?  I knew you would ask that question but would indeed you did not ask me – but since you have, I am not sure that I am, but I recognize my weaknesses and seek to address them. I seek humility, I flee pride, I seek the simple life, I seek God’s favors and His Graces for a life of faith, hope charity and humility and my journey is to learn and practice and to live these virtues. May it also be your lot to have these same Graces, Amen.

I need to feel your Amen – say it LOUD.  Yea! That was better!  Now I can feel you!

10 Life Lessons Found in the Pages of Middle-Grade Fiction by Melissa Roske

When writing for children, Madonna said it best: Papa, don’t preach. That means: no heavy-handed moralizing or high-horsey finger wagging. Kids get bossed around enough as it is, so why subject the…

Source: 10 Life Lessons Found in the Pages of Middle-Grade Fiction by Melissa Roske

10 Life Lessons Found in the Pages of Middle-Grade Fiction by Melissa Roske

Simply beautiful nuggets of wisdom and life lessons of inestimable value. One more reason why children and us all must rediscover and recommit to reading!

Nerdy Book Club

When writing for children, Madonna said it best: Papa, don’t preach. That means: no heavy-handed moralizing or high-horsey finger wagging. Kids get bossed around enough as it is, so why subject them to further instruction when they’re reading for pleasure? That’s not playing fair.

At the same time, finding inspiration in a great book can enhance a child’s reading experience significantly. It’s the icing on the cake; the cherry on the sundae. So, without further ado, 10 life lessons found in the pages of middle-grade fiction, new classics and old favorites alike:

harriet the spy

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

“Life is a struggle and a good spy gets in there and fights.” (p. 132).

When Ole Golly expresses this sentiment to her charge during an emotional goodbye outside the Welsch family home, it’s clear to the reader – and to Harriet, who tries to be brave in the aftermath of her…

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Proving God’s Love

a good read!

jeromeceeez

“How do you know that God loves you?”

This is a question that most people would have asked themselves at some point in their life.

Interestingly, I was asked this question by a young atheist lady and I found the whole experience rather surreal. I had never met a female atheist before (apparently they exist). So maybe she wasn’t an atheist, I mean she believed in the possibility of a Supreme Being and all, but her question to me was, ‘How can you prove this being loves you?’  My immediate response to her was, ‘How can you prove your biological father loves you.’

For believers, we have probably come up with different answers each time we ask ourselves this question. I believe that the answers we come up with are a reflection of who we are and/or the current situation we find ourselves in.

Some people say I know God…

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Vanity upon vanity

by

Noel Ihebuzor

Today’s readings from the Catholic liturgy remind us of the frailty and lack of wisdom in a life devoted to the pursuit of material things in this world. “Vanity upon vanity, all is vanity”. These are the eternal words of the wise man from the sacred book of the Christian faith. I am sure that words that radiate wisdom of such profundity and which call attention to the need for a balanced attitude to material things in this world exist in the sacred books of other religions.

As a child in commencing primary school in Makurdi in the sixties, I had to memorize these lines – “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul”? Phrases such as this one invite men and women to reflect with a view to leading them to a richer perspective on material acquisition. They are there for all to hear and heed but greed stands between men and women and the application of these words in their everyday lives. Greed has blunted our hearing and has led us and still leads us to make a flawed choice. That choice brings with it very severe consequences.

The unrestrained desire for more, greed, enslaves us and is the root cause of most other vices, especially that of corrupt enrichment. One of its fruits is the death of satiation. The others are envy, jealousy, untrustworthiness, falsehood, cheating, dishonesty and a debilitating sense of insecurity. We look for security in material things but cannot find it there. Our wealth fails to buy us real happiness, and we wrongly believe that with more wealth, the real happiness that eludes us can be eventually purchased. So we struggle to amass more wealth and the methods for amassing such is secondary, indeed, immaterial. This is the thinking of the mind that greed has invaded.

Greed invades and installs by slow accretion. But it needs you to open the door for its first entry.  We invite it in! We let it in! Greed is best likened to a virus which, once installed, progressively erodes all values, stifles decency, atrophies the conscience and corrodes the soul. It surreptitiously suffocates morality and eventually enslaves us to this cult of materialism which leads us to crave for more, the more we possess. This is what explains why someone who has enriched himself or herself by stealing from public or private coffers to the tune of millions and millions of naira can still steal more, grab more and grovel for more at the least opportunity. Our news media is replete with such mind-boggling accounts of “fantastic corruption”, a corruption that spares no section or segment of our societies. The corrupt person steals but cannot be filled. He or she eats but is forever hungry. In effect, the cult of materialism that greed shackles us to is an empty, hollow and hollowing one, one that breeds this infirmity that Owerri people call “Erima afo ejughi eju” – eating and consumption that know no satisfaction. Materialism warps our vision and deadens our souls and eventually leads us to death. God gave men and women dominion over the earth and the things in it. Materialism subverts that logic by granting material things dominion and control over the human mind and psyche. The readings for this Sunday forcefully brings these truths to us and invite us to take steps to turn from the enticing appeals and entrapment of these vices of greed and materialism. Our countries have suffered and still suffer their effects!

May God protect us from such debilitating affliction.  May He lead us to eternal and true values where life and living are measured by love, caring and sharing – in such a world, poverty would be history as there would be enough for all. Let us turn to the words of God, for in them are found true abundance and the path to the true food which can feed our bodies and our souls. Every other food that does not grow from the words of God is vanity upon vanity.

Happy Sunday.

Noel

 

 

The beauty of numbers

By Noel Ihebuzor

 

Numbers have this quality and attraction of precision, indeed of elegant precision. “70 people were employed” is more elegant and more precise than saying a number of persons were employed. A large number of us are thus fascinated and attracted by numbers. Honest men and women lace their public utterances with numbers because they are verifiable. But, and alas, because claims made with numbers are verifiable, they are also falsifiable.

 

Remember the 97% and 5% inclusive development wahala? It was about numbers and precision. Lately I hear that some senior official of this government was quoted as saying that 70% of Nigerians are satisfied with this administration. That statement has the elegance of elegant precision, that is until you start querying how the 70% was arrived at in the first place. Was a study conducted? If yes, where and when and by whom? If yes, how was the sampling done? And what tools were used? And what steps were taken to ensure the validity and reliability of the tools so used? In the absence of valid answers to such questions, such use of numbers in public statements lurches to imprecision and to the abuse and misuse of numbers. I hear one other official said the other day that only a few Nigerians are complaining of hardship in our current situation. Now that is imprecision as the adjective few is not precise. One man’s few is another woman’s many. But the type of imprecision in claim implied by the use of few is honest imprecision because the speaker is also revealing that he does not have precise data to back up his claim. I prefer it to the use of numbers without empirical backing. Yes, it is “fuzzy-speek”, but at least, it is honest. Use of numbers without empirical backing is not and actually amounts to abuse and misuse of numbers, and we must all realize that numbers too have feelings and should be treated with some respect.

 

Incidentally, the assays of these two officials were indeed unnecessary as their principal had in a recent message appealed to Nigerians to bear the present hardships (which was caused by the last administration) with forbearance, implying that indeed, ground no level but say no be him cause am!! So, why these officials would be tearing their Christmas or Sallah dresses when their principal has owned up is something that beats me a 100% of the time!

A Tribute for Mohammed Ali – The champ is gone, long live the champ!

by

Noel Ihebuzor

 
I just learnt of the passing of this great man, this super athlete, this wonderful fellow who contributed in raising the status of boxing from that of brute pugilism to that of an art comparable to ballet. Yes, it is to Ali’s credit that he was able to transform what was before him an ugly physical sport into a delicately executed dance form with its beauty, its engaging fluidity, its glides and slides and its captivating elegance. Ali had this ability to execute what was a complex move with speed and grace and make it look simple!

The king is gone, long live the king! Here was a man who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. Here was the athlete’s poet to whom poetry came naturally and instantly and who bequeathed the world with strings of unforgettable lines. He sang and danced as he demolished Liston…he jabbed, jibed, jived and joked as he took out Foreman. With him boxing was art, it was fun, it was movement, it was strategy. And like all great people, he did great things and made them look simple.
He was the best, the prettiest, the smartest and the fastest. He even used his art, yes that was what his boxing skills became, to combat racism in his country and around the world. And this was no easy task – just read “To kill a mocking bird” to get a sense of the weight of racism that African Americans had to contend with in the states and which Ali (then Cassius M Clay) had to deal with as a young person. He refused to be put down by it, and even challenged it. When Parkinson’s disease assailed him, he parked it je-je in one corner and I remember watching him with moisture clouding my vision as he struggled bravely to carry the Olympic flame during the LA games!
Champ, gaa na udo! Iwu dimpka asato, okunrin mewa, iroko tree, gaa gaa na ogwu! You were that brave candle that defied the wind and whose flame shone in the worst of storms showing light to others and brightening lives.
Gaa na udo, Nwoke omam. The champ is gone but he lives on!
++ My unworthy tribute for one of the world’s greats!

 


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