Saturday, August 28, 2010

Humility

The goal of Christian existence is actually quite simple: we must become like Christ.

But like all profound truths, this is easy to say and hard to do. Being followers of Christ means that we want to be like Christ, want to follow Christ, follow his teachings, his example. The goal of Christian existence is to emulate Christ.

One of the most difficult aspects of becoming like Christ is that we have to put on the mind of Christ. We have to develop the Christian attitude. This means that we not only need to act like Christ, but we also need to think like Christ, feel like Christ, love what Christ loves. Being Christian is not just about what we say and do, it is about being like Christ to the core of our being.

Essential to developing this Christian attitude is the virtue of humility. We hear about this virtue in our readings today. St. Thomas says that humility consists in keeping oneself in one's own bounds, not reaching out to things beyond one, but submitting to one's superior. This particular virtue is very difficult for us Americans. It is in our very nature to stretch beyond our bounds. We love the rags to riches tale, we believe in the American dream. This nation was founded by men and women who refused to submit to a distant king, they decided to break free. We pick up this attitude, it is in the air we breathe. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with having hopes and dreams and striving beyond ourselves, but this attitude can be contrary to the gospel. This attitude makes it difficult for us to rely upon God, makes it difficult for us to place our trust in God. With this attitude we place ourselves as the center of attention. We neglect those around us. All too often this attitude leads us down the road to depression when our far-fetched plans come to nothing. It is difficult for us to be like Christ with this attitude.

So we need to ask ourselves if we are humble. Are we humble people? Do we care not for our own good but for the good of others? Today's gospel acts like a humility thermometer. We can gain a reading on our own humility when we hear these words. Do we like places of honor? Do we seek attention? Do we have an exaggerated opinion of ourselves? Do we invite so as to be invited?

When I read these words I feel somewhat guilty. I don't feel as though I'm faithful to Jesus' command, I'm not as humble as I should be.

So what do we do about it? How do we become humble? It is perhaps the height of arrogance to think that we can just manufacture humility. We cannot just create humility by our own initiative: Today I will be humble, then I will tell everyone in the world just how humble I am. I will travel around the world touting my abundant humility. I have a friend Fr. Joe who always jokes that he is an abyss of humility.

Humility doesn't work this way. I think that humility is not so much the result of our efforts at attaining humility as it is the result of our relationship with Christ. Humility is a byproduct, if you will, of our relationship with God. The Letter to the Hebrews today tells us that we have drawn near to Jesus, the mediator of the covenant. This is how we learn humility, by drawing near to Jesus. He is the perfect example of humility: though he was in the form of God Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at; rather, he emptied himself taking the form of a slave and being born in human likeness: thus did he humble himself obediently accepting even death, death on a cross. The closer we grow to Jesus the more humble we become.

Today in the parable it is Jesus who deserves the head place at the wedding feast, he is the Son of God, the true Bridegroom. Yet, it is also Jesus who takes the last place, he decided to suffer and die for our salvation. We deserve the last place, yet by our union with Christ we are called up to a higher place, to the right hand of the Father.

This is the loft goal of humility. If we draw near to Christ, if we seek to emulate him, to put on the mind of Christ, to grow in humility, then we will be united with Christ in this life so as to live with him forever in the life to come: the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb.

In a few moments we will receive a foretaste of that eternal banquet in the Holy Eucharist. Here in the Eucharist we draw near to Jesus to learn from him the ways of humility. We receive Jesus, become united with him, so that we can be united with him forever. God grant us the grace to be humble, Amen.

Cardinal Merry Del Val Litany of Humility:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled ... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored ... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised ... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted ... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved ... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated ... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes ... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated ... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten ... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed ... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged ... Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected ... Deliver me, Jesus.


 

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I ... Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
others may increase and I may decrease ... Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside ... Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ... Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything... Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should… Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

1 comment:

  1. Another great homily, Fr. Jake! I love the way you ended it with interaction from the parishioners. I will use this litany as an examination of conscience. Blessings to you...

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