September 1, 2019: Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Pastor’s Corner
Be Humble. Humility is the foundation of the spiritual life. In our readings for this Labor Day weekend, we are reminded that there is no way for God to be alive in us if we are not humble. However, humility is not, as we might expect, an attitude of poor self-image or a denial of the gifts and abilities that God has given us. Humility is not diminishing who we are as a person made in the image and likeness of God. Humility is the ability to see ourselves the way that God see us and to know that every good that we have comes from Him as a pure gift. We are loved, gifted and called to be witnesses of God’s love. Humility is ability to both recognize this and to act upon it. Without God we are nothing, but with God we are transformed and can transform the world through God’s love in our lives. Classically, there are three hallmarks of a humble heart, which promote spiritual health.
Humility vanquishes pride. Pride is a spiritual killer. Pride puts ourselves and talents at the center of our life. Pride narrows our ability to both receive and give love. St. Augustine says in one of his letters, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. The way to Christ is first through humility, second through humility, third through humility.” Just as Christ was exalted by humbling himself when we took on our human nature, so too, we will be filled with the glory of Christ’s Spirit when we empty ourselves of self-centered pride. It is pride, more than anything that tempts us to see ourselves through the eyes of the world and through the lens of others’ opinions. If you want to see yourself in the light of truth, you must humbly seek to see yourself only as God sees you. His understanding of your soul is all that matters.
Humility helps us avoid the pitfall of comparison. Comparing ourselves with others can be a dangerous habit. Either we think ourselves better than others and we fall into pride or we consider others better than us and we are prone to despair. St. Mother Theresa says: “Humility is the mother of all virtues: purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.” When we humbly shift our daily focus and sense of self squarely on Christ and his will for us, comparison loses its illusory power over us.
Humility frees us from the tyranny of expectations. Often unhappiness in life arises not from the reality of the situation, but from unmet expectations. As the noted philosopher, poet laments at the beginning of his ode to humility: “Nobody pray for me, even a day for me.” Yet, humility helps us to recalibrate our expectations not according to what we think we deserve or what others think about us, but rather upon the gifts and graces, that God knows that we need in order to flourish. Thomas Merton puts it this way: “In humility is the greatest freedom. As long as you have to defend the imaginary self that you think is important, you lose your piece of heart. As soon as you compare that shadow with the shadows of other people, you lose all joy, because you have begun to trade in unrealities and there is no joy in things that do not exist.” On this weekend when we are reminded of the power of humility, we ask for the grace to see ourselves as God sees us, to recognize God as the source of our giftedness and to be witnesses of His love. A humble heart is the strength of our joy!