The Gift of Humility

This is part of my homily given at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Caledon this weekend.  

In my role as Director of Vocations, I start off most of my discernment retreats and Come & See Weekends with the first words I heard from a Vocation Director when I was first discerning priesthood: “You’re probably sitting here thinking that you’re not worthy to be called by God to be a priest or religious sister or brother; and guess what you’re not, none of us are worthy of what the Lord calls us to or gives us in our lives – so we’ve got to get on with things despite the fact.  These words spoke powerfully to me when I was sitting there feeling unworthy, and conflicted about why I was thinking about priesthood. I share them because I need to hear them now and again; they are humbling words. I think we all need to think about God’s gift to us whether we deserve it or not. This reminds me of my need to be humble in living out the life God gave me.

It applies to all of us; priests, religious, married folk and a reflection on humility should not lead us to be self-deprecating or self-loathing in any way. We are all loved daughters and sons of God and loved more than we can ever imagine – we always must remember that.

God calls us to great & amazing things in this life but often in the simplest and humblest things we do. I’ve heard it said that Jesus’ most favoured virtues is the virtue of humility. He may never have said it directly, but it’s the most common threads of many of His parables and Words. If we approach life with a sense of humility, our lives take on a radically deeper meaning.

Christian writer C.S. Lewis defined humility well when he said that it is not: “thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less”. Pope Francis has also stressed humility since ascending to the Chair of Peter and today’s Gospel is a message the Holy Father has made his own.

There are many good things about the world that we are living in, yet there are so many temptations new and unique to our times, that didn’t occur to the People of Israel; those people Jesus spoke directly to. We are living in an age of texting, an age of Facebook and other social media, we are living in a time when we can get just about everything good or bad on the internet. More and more we do not have to engage ourselves with other people in life and we can quickly and easily find ourselves more consumed with our own needs, and less concerned with the needs of others.

We are called to engage others, to be with others and for others we are asked to take on a great mission – to bring God to others who might not even know that they desire Him. Sometimes our words will bring this about, but more often than not, our actions and the way we behave each and every day towards others in the ordinary circumstances of our lives; this is where great evangelization will take place. People are attracted to humility, to the person who would be the honoured guest, but who considers others first. You have seen the little video clip of Novak Djokovic who held the umbrella and shared a drink with the ball boy at the French Open recently. There’s something magnetic about people putting others first, about us treating each other with honour.

So why don’t we do it more?

Well what attacks our humility is our pride, and I think that most of us have had moments of pridefulness. I know I do. With humility as a virtue, pride is its opposing vice, a common vice. Pride can be hard for us to see at times, because pride skews our perception of reality. Pride lies to us, we do deserve the credit for what we do, who we are, I deserve this or that. Pride manifests itself in selfish motives, an exaggerated ego, a low opinion of others. It’s hard to stop and think for a minute, “No, I’m not worth more than anyone else, God loves us all equally and it’s His opinion that really matters. And as for my glory, to God be all glory!  It wasn’t my wisdom or my power that brought me about, and I’ve just used the gifts God gave me to do what He gave them to me in the first place to do.

We fight pride by humbling ourselves before God and asking Him to reveal hidden pride, by taking a humble place as our Gospel reminds us of today. This week, let us place an added and special focus on the areas of our lives where pride creeps in and allow true Christian love & charity to guide us in thinking of ourselves less and a sense of the gifts & blessings God has given each one of us to help lead us to a greater sense of humble service for God and for each other. May God bless you.

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