When I taught high school, a student used to come into class, walk up to me, and stand in my face.  When I would invite him to take a seat, he would respond, “Nah, I’m good.  You know we’re equals.  You stand, so I stand.” We had this interaction for several weeks before I realized that this was less an act of defiance and more an expression of his desire for connection.  He thought equality was the only way to do so.  Could we be equals?  I was the teacher and he was the student; there have to be boundaries.

The response was not to cling to the difference or to explain it away.  Instead, it required humility to acknowledge the difference while also saying, “Difference doesn’t stop me from loving you.”

Paul holds up Jesus as the model of humility.  Jesus let go of equality with God to show love for humankind through suffering.  If Christ could humble himself, who are we not to?

—Brad Held, S.J., a Jesuit of the Wisconsin province, is currently a theology student at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He has just come from 3 years of teaching at Red Cloud High School on the Holy Rosary Jesuit Mission in Pine Ridge, SD.