Meek and Humble of Heart

Meek and Humble of Heart

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Here is a link to today’s readings.

Mom's cake 2015Since we celebrated my mother’s birthday together last time with some cake, let me share a story. When I was still a teenager, my mother and one of my brothers and I went to Confession. The line was longer and slower than usual, so when my mother’s turn arrived, the priest was already exiting the confessional. He told her he didn’t have time to hear another confession. She promised to be quick. He looked at his watch and stood his ground. He had to get ready for Mass after all. With that, my mother looked him in the eye and said, “Well, you’re no John Vianney!” Sufficiently chastised by the reference to the saint famous for long hours spent hearing confessions, the priest humbly stepped back into the confessional.

My mother loves St. John Vianney, and I do too. When his incorrupt heart came to Massachusetts, we went to venerate the relic, to praise God for this great saint of humble heart. I feel a special kinship with him because we share the same birthdate, May 8th. I am also profoundly moved by his deep humility. According to one of his biographers¹: The Curé of Ars was truly humble. He used to warn his assistant, “Humility is to the various virtues what the chain is in a rosary: take away the chain and the beads are scattered: remove humility, and all virtues vanish.”

What the Curé of Ars learned from the Word of God is readily found in this week’s Scripture readings. Sirach tell us, “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” Luke reminds us of Jesus’ instructions concerning a banquet: “…when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

What is your own track record with this virtue? Are you easily tempted to pride and boasting, to thinking yourself better than others, to thinking you deserve all the credit for your blessings and none of the blame for your faults? Or are you at the other end of the spectrum? Do you have trouble claiming your own blessedness and acknowledging your gifts and goodness? Maybe you’re like me and it depends on the day!

growthThe word humility derives from the root, humus, meaning the ground. To be humble, in other words, is to be grounded or “down to earth” as we say. It doesn’t mean playing small—that is false humility. God gave us our gifts to be used for the Father’s glory. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountaintop cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matt. 5:15-16). Genuine humility means accepting ourselves for exactly who we are, recognizing our creatureliness and our complete dependence on God in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:18). It means accepting our gifts and our limitations, our sins and our successes, entrusting all of it to God’s providence and mercy with childlike trust as we grow in faith, hope, and love.

ThinkstockPhotos-464934517St. John Vianney is a great teacher of this central virtue. He understood the words of St. Paul and the early Church: “humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus… he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:3-5, 8). Vianney exemplified the words of Christ we hear proclaimed this weekend, “Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” St. John’s incorrupt heart remains for us a sacramental reminder of the humility that made his heart like Christ’s. Let us pray to be like him that we may grow in virtue and grace: Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.

 

¹O’Brien, Fr. Bartholomew J. The Curé of Ars: Patron Saint of Parish Priests. Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, 1956 (reprinted 1987).

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1Comment
  • Marion Collins
    Posted at 21:56h, 30 August

    Thanks Kevin, it always helps to be reminded of our need for Humility.
    I think you are correct in the fact that it depends on the day, mood and circumstance whether we ar boastful and pumped up with pride or displaying false humility in neglecting to acknowledge our gifts or good deeds..
    We have many songs in Liturgy to remind us that “We are the Light of the World” Furthermore, we always teach our children not to hide their light under a basket. The song “This This Little Light of Mine” ended our Faith Formation Program this year with the children coming to the altar to sing it, ending let it shine, let it shine, let it shine with great gusto. The parishioners were so pleased, I invited them to sing along with the children and everyone had wonderful memories and smiles.
    We must trust God to know Who we are and respect that He knows that living in Him is indeed the motivation
    we need to move toward one another in charity, love and peace.
    We do need to place ourselves last at the Banquet because only then can we live out the words of the prophet Micah: the Lord requires us to do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.
    Thanks God, Kevin and Bayard