A children’s homily:
Once upon a time, there was a mighty lion named Leroy who ruled over all in the jungle where he was king. He was strong and all of the other animals there feared him for he had little patience and did not like to be bothered by others.
Now in that same jungle, there lived a small vervet monkey named Vernon. Vernon didn’t have any family or many friends and he mostly just stayed to himself.
Leroy and Vernon had never met, until one day…
Vernon decided to go for a walk and as he approached a clearing in the road, he noticed that coming straight toward him was the mighty king Leroy. Not knowing any better, Vernon kept on walking until he stood face to face with Leroy. Leroy said, quite agitatedly: “What are you doing lowly monkey? Do you know who I am? Why do you stand there in the middle of the road in my way?”
Vernon was shocked. He didn’t know what to say, so he didn’t say anything. He simply moved over to the side of the road so that the ferocious lion could pass him by.
Well… several days passed by and Vernon was again out walking through the jungle and happily minding his own business. He grew a bit tired and decided that he would like to fall asleep, so he looked for a quiet place to rest. He found a soft pile of leaves and settled in for a nice nap. A few moments later, he was startled to look up see an angry Leroy staring down at him. Leroy roared: “Get out of there little monkey. I am the king of the jungle and I will sit myself down wherever I would like. Move!”
Vernon jumped up and moved away. As Leroy walked over to the spot where Vernon had laid down, he looked over at Vernon and thought he recognized him. Then it struck him and he said: “I know you. You are the monkey who stood in my way on the road. I have had enough of you. Leave the jungle or I shall eat you.”
Vernon was stunned. Leave the jungle? Where would he go? Sadly, he walked away.
Later that evening, Leroy noticed a strange smell in the jungle. He had never smelled it before. In fact, all of the animals noticed it too. They also saw what they thought was a low lying cloud all around them, like a type of mist. But the mist never looked… or smelled… like this before.
All of the animals became nervous about this so they went to their king and asked what they should do. Ronald the rhinoceros said: “King, the mist in the jungle is getting worse. What is it?” Hector the hippopotamus noted: “The smell is making it hard to breathe. Tell us king, where should we go?” And Wally the warthog added: “The other animals are saying that we can’t stay here any longer. Maybe it’s time to leave the jungle.”
Leroy was stumped. He had no idea what it was or what he should tell the animals. And he didn’t much like the idea that the animals might leave.
Just then, he noticed a small monkey carrying a suitcase walking by where they all were standing. It was Vernon and he was getting ready to leave. Vernon looked up at Leroy, Ronald, Hector and Wally who all laughed at the strange sight of the small monkey moving away from the jungle. It was then that Vernon noticed the mist and smelled the strange smell. Instinctively, he immediately jumped up off the ground and climbed up upon the highest tree and went up to the very top. Looking around, he noticed that there was a gigantic forest fire in the jungle and it was moving right to where they were. As he scanned the tops of the trees, he saw that there was no fire where the lake was, so he climbed down and said to the king: “King Leroy, there is something moving in the forest. Soon, it will be here. You should tell all the animals to go over to the lake because I think it will be safe over there.”
Leroy thought about it. Should I listed to this lowly monkey, I wonder? Hmmm….
He decided to instruct all the animals to run (or fly) to the lake which is exactly what they did. There, they waited until the fire passed them by. Because they were in the water at the lake, none of them were hurt by the fire. Vernon, the lowly vervet monkey had saved the day for everyone.
Later that night, Leroy the king apologized to Vernon and told him he could walk down the middle of any road he would like. He could sleep on any pile of leaves in the jungle. And he could make the jungle his home forever.
As a matter of fact, Vernon and Leroy became good friends…and they lived happily ever after.
In the Gospel today, Jesus told a story about a Pharisee, who was a lot like Leroy the lion, and a tax collector, who was a lot like Vernon the vervet monkey. Jesus wanted to make sure that we all know that it is important to be humble.
Humble means… not feeling or acting as though you are better than others.
Humble means… not believing you are more special than others.
Humble means… acting exactly the way Jesus did.
Jesus was a king, the son of God. But he came here in the form of a small baby, who was helpless. He was born to modest, peasant parents. He was a carpenter. He lived simply. And he sacrificed for all of us.
Jesus was humble… and so should all of us be as well.