The scriptures this week teach us about humility, and perhaps more than the usual Sunday we need to hold all the readings in our hearts if we want to walk away form here with the right understanding of what humility is. I will tell you right now at the start that if your vision of humility is not a complete joy to live… you don’t understand humility. So let’s walk through this a little.
A faulty understanding humility is to think that it means taking on a degraded image of one’s self, to honestly think in your mind that you are unworthy, that you are worthless, that you are nothing. Being humbled or humiliated is not what it means to have humility. Sometimes it is true that in our life we need to remember our sinfulness and our brokenness to open ourselves up to the action of God… but even in those times of rebuke what we find is a God you values us and convinces us that we do have value, that we are loved. In the first reading God addressed you as “my child.” Humility should not reject what God chooses to say that you are. We should not convince ourselves that we are anything less than the children of God and the ones that he continually seeks out.
A humility based in unworthiness doesn’t work because of something so obvious we lose sight of it. If you are judging your worth and worthiness you are thinking about yourself, but true humility is thinking about others. When I read the first parable of the Gospel and the other scriptures around it, that is what strikes me. The one who sits in a place of honor was only thinking about himself, walking into a celebration and thinking, “I am important, I am special, I am the greatest… I deserve a place of honor.” But the one who sits in a lowly place can only see the other people. He looks around the room and sees so much value in the people around him, so much greatness and honor and so much love that all he thinks is, “They deserve a place of honor.” Whether or not he deserves it as well doesn’t enter his mind. This humility is how Christians are called to relate to each other — not to take pride in our own holiness, but to see and delight in the holiness of those around us.
And towards God too, we ought to act with true humility. Rather than focus on ourselves and own unworthiness to have relationship with our Creator, we should focus on the Creator and his choice to love us despite our sinfulness. The Letter to the Hebrews says that we “have not approached that which could be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness… and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that no message be further addressed to them.” That’s what God seems like when we are blinded by our unworthiness. Blinded to think that God is mighty and terrible, and yet at the same time we could touch Him if we lived up to His standards. Blinded to think that we don’t want to hear more of His message because we have failed at what we have already heard. That is a humility of unworthiness that shrinks away from God. Instead, Hebrews says that we “have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.” God is still majestic and mighty, but He has offered Himself to us in the blood of the new covenant. True humility accepts what God has freely offered and responds by growing in holiness.
Can you see now why humility is a joy to live, a spark in your heart waiting to ignite? Humility is being captivated by the love of God and the light of Christ which touches us through the lives of those around us. May we all be humble enough to turn our gaze away from ourselves and see the beauty that is around us.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.