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Homily: On Humility

  10/23/10 18:51, by jsignal, Categories: life with god

It is amazing that it's been a month since I posted on this blog. This semester is crammed full and flying by rapidly. I thought I would share my homily for today, October 24th, 2010, which is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, year C, in the Church's calendar. That means the homily is based on these readings.

Today, we say we take pride in our work. We say that we?re proud of our country and proud of our soldiers. We?re proud of our sports teams and how we the practice our faith. And it?s common knowledge that it?s healthy to be proud of oneself. After all, if one lacks pride, one doesn?t have the self-confidence needed to achieve great things. For us, pride is important.

But then again pride is one of the 7 deadly sins, right? Remember the 7 deadly sins? Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride? The Church calls these ?deadly? because each one of them leads to countless other sins. Pride, for example, leads to jealousy and arrogance. But among those 7 deadly sins, pride has a special place as the most deadly sin of all, because it is the root of all the others. If one is proud, sin of every category will follow.

Pride is defined as an inordinate esteem of oneself that is contrary to the truth. It is evident in different ways: by the minimizing of one?s defects or the claiming of qualities that one doesn?t actually have, by holding oneself superior to others, or by disdaining them because they lack what the proud person has. We see pride clearly in today?s gospel reading. The Pharisee was a man very devoted to the Lord. He fasted twice a week, tithed on his whole income and was seen praying in the Temple?all praiseworthy things. But Jesus tells us that the Pharisee did not leave the Temple ?justified? because he arrogantly thanked God for his superiority over the ?rest of humanity,? particularly the tax collector kneeling next to him. Yet strangely, the tax collector?a man whose livelihood and wealth was accumulated by bribery and theft, left the temple justified, forgiven.

What condemns the Pharisee is pride. What saves the Tax Collector is humility. If you recall your Catechism lessons, each of those 7 deadly sins has an associated virtue that is directly opposed to it and which is the remedy for it. The remedy for pride is true humility. So if you?re sick with pride, you need a dose of humility. Common sense, right? But one needs to understand what true humility is.

So, I will tell you. Humility is found in a man or woman who knows the truth about him or herself. In other words, they recognize their total dependence on God, that all good things come from God and not from themselves.

What am I suggesting here? That we admit we?who tithe, pray, fast, and serve the poor?that we?re all scum, unworthy of any dignity whatsoever? A truly healthy ?Catholic guilt,? as they say, does not let us forget that God does not love nor create worthless scum. Humility is not only opposed to pride; it is also opposed to excessive self-criticism that fails to recognize God?s gifts. In other words, especially when we kneel before Christ on the altar here at Mass, we can happily thank God for the gifts he has given us, whether that be intelligence, athletic ability, skill in cooking, whatever. We thank him for the opportunity to use the gifts in service to Him.

But if humility is knowing the truth about oneself, it also entails admitting that one falls short of God?s command that we ?be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.? As I said, the sinful tax collector was saved by his humility. As he knelt before God, he was aware that he had failed to live up to God?s standards. He was ashamed of his sin and pleaded ?O God, be merciful to me, a sinner,? as he beat his breast?much as we do during the penitential rite when we say ?I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault.?

We need to recall that, as our first reading reminds us, God is a God of justice. If we exalt, that is praise, ourselves, God will humble us in the end. If we humble ourselves, however, God will take care of the exalting? we?ll enjoy eternal happiness in His Presence. As Catholics we have a very real way to humble ourselves in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Like the Tax Collector, we can acknowledge who we truly are in the presence of God and receive forgiveness of our sins. This reminds us that we are loved and that our dignity comes not from our own efforts at sanctity but from the fact that we are adopted children of God.

So ? Humility saves, pride condemns, and humility is acknowledging the truth: Both that we have gifts from God that bring joy and that we commit sin which bring sorrow.

Another way I like to describe humility is this: I am an adopted son of God the Father through my baptism. In God?s presence, then, I can think of myself as a child. A young child does not draw pictures or strive for excellence in kindergarten because it will make him better than his classmates. Rather he does it so, at the end of the day, he can show his dad?with great enthusiasm and innocent delight?the art project, the homework, and so on.

As children of God, then, we tithe, we fast, we pray, not because we want our peers to think well of us or because it builds up our self esteem. We do it because we know that it pleases our Father, to whom we present ourselves like children greeting our dad when he finally comes home from work in the evening?by running to him, giving him a big hug and telling him about our day. All we do during our day finds meaning not because it has value in itself, but because we know it pleases our Father in Heaven. In fact, I would go a step farther and say that our self-worth should rightly be found in the fact that we are sons and daughters of God the Father. Humility is admitting when we have let our Father down AND admitting when we have pleased him.

How, then, can we continue to go about saying we?re proud of our soldiers, our country, our school, our children, and ourselves? Like Saint Paul, we boast only in the Lord. We are proud of our country because in this time and place we have preserved a freedom to worship God. We are proud of our soldiers because their sacrifices of service, and often their lives, show forth the love of neighbor that Christ exemplified. We are proud of our children, and ourselves, not because of anything we have done on our own and not because we are better than others. Rather, only because we are God?s sons and daughters in whom he is well pleased.

God Bless,

Deacon Jason

1 comment

Comment from: Jesse [Visitor]

Interesting blog….I think we must have been reading similar readings in my church today too concerning the Pharisee and how he fasted twice a week.

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