22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  These words of Our Lord echo the words of the first reading this morning: “Conduct your affairs with humility . . . Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.”  These words are not easy to modern ears, because we tend to have a distorted sense of what it really means to be humble.

Humility is sometimes confused with lack of self-esteem.  Some people have the idea that in order to be humble, I have to become a doormat for everyone else to walk on.  These are, of course, false notions of humility.  True humility is not about despising ourselves, or putting ourselves down, or walking around dejected all the time.  True humility connects us with the truth: the truth about who we are in relationship to God and in relationship to others.

Humility is opposed to pride, but it is also opposed to immoderate self-abjection, which fails to recognize God’s gifts.  God has given each one of us gifts which we are to use according to His will.  To deny the gifts that He has given to us is to deny the One Who gave those gifts to us.

In order to truly be humble, I have to acknowledge my gifts and good qualities and talents and I have to acknowledge that they come from God.  Saint Therese, the Little Flower, has a great analogy for humility.  She said that in order for a beautiful flower to be humble, it would not call itself ugly and claim to have a broken stem.  The flower would acknowledge its own beauty and glorify God for making it beautiful.

The Catechism tells us that humility is a virtue by which a Christian acknowledges that God is the Author of all good.  (cf. CCC – glossary)  Humility keeps us from reaching beyond ourselves.  It keeps us from putting ourselves in the place of God and claiming that we, ourselves, are responsible for all that we have that is good.  All that we have and all that we are that is good is a gift from God.  Humility is not about learning to dislike ourselves, it is learning to love all the good things about ourselves that God has created and hate the sin that distorts the image of God which we bear by our very nature.

Humility restrains the unruly desire for personal greatness and it leads us to love ourselves based on a true appreciation of our position with respect to God and our neighbors.  Humility makes us recognize that we are totally dependent upon God and it makes us recognize our equality with others.  God created us.  God gave us the gifts and talents that we have.  God gives us each breath as a gift.  Humility helps us to remember that fact.

Humility also reminds us of our place in respect to others.  Every single human being is a made in the image and likeness of God.  Humility reminds us that we are all equal before God.  God has created every human being in His image and likeness.  He desires that every person be with Him for all eternity in Heaven.  Think of the person that you like the least.  God loves that person and wants you and that person to be in Heaven for all eternity together.

Humility also reminds us that each and every single person is a sinner who stands in need of God’s mercy.  True humility keeps us from exalting ourselves over others, and also keeps us from judging others.  I am just as much in need of God’s mercy as my neighbor is.  That is why Our Lord tells us to take the plank out of our own eye before attempting to remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye.

The Catechism also tells us that humility is the foundation of prayer.  (cf. CCC 2559)  In order for us to approach God, we have to turn to Him and acknowledge our dependence upon Him.  Some people treat God as if He were a genie, there only to grant wishes; others treat God as if He were a last resort to be consulted on in case of emergency.  Humility reminds us that God is the Creator and we are the creatures.  The reality that humility connects us to is that we are not in ultimate control.  God is in control and we rely completely upon Him every minute of every day.  He is our loving Father.  His Providence guides us at every moment.  God loves each one of you more than you can ever imagine and He loves you more than you love yourself.  Remembering that He is in control actually lightens our burdens, if we surrender ourselves into His loving hands.

A great model of humility for us is Our Blessed Mother.  She is the Queen of Heaven, she is the Queen of the Angels; she was chosen to be the Mother of God the Son.  Her exalted position never caused her to fall into pride.  At the visitation, Saint Elizabeth asked how it was possible that the Mother of the Lord could come to her.  Mary, did not deny her lofty status: she merely acknowledged where her greatness came from: “the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is His name.”  Let us all imitate our Mother Mary, and praise God in true humility for it is from Him that all good things come.  Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us!