Consider how great our God is.
From all eternity, He has existed. The whole universe was created simply by the power of His word. Everything that exists is sustained in being by His love. A grain of dust does not move without His knowing about it. He gazes over the vastness of space as if it were an inch. The billions of years that have passed and the billions of years that are still to be are like a tick of the clock.
Considering how great our God is, how could we ever hope to impress Him? What could we possibly do to please Him?
The Bible makes it clear. It is the lowly and the humble who most please and impress the God of the Universe.
In today’s first reading, the prophet Zephaniah proclaims that God will rebuild Jerusalem not through the powerful and mighty but through the humble and lowly. And, in today’s gospel, Jesus proclaims that it is the “poor in spirit” and the “meek” who will inherit the blessings of God’s Kingdom.
Why is that so? Because it is the humble who have learned to rely on God for everything. They trust Him more than themselves, more than wealth and more than earthly power. Because they rely on Him for everything, they are most open to doing God’s will. Because they are not seeking their own glory, the humble can give glory to God. Because they are not trying to enrich themselves, the poor in spirit do not allow any of their possessions to stand in the way of saying “yes” to God. And because they are not trying to advance their own agenda, the meek can put themselves in the service of those less fortunate than themselves.
In today’s second reading, Saint Paul tells us more about the power of humble men and women. Speaking to the Corinthians, he reminds them that they are not the best and brightest. However, it was for that very reason that God chose them. If God were to choose the best and brightest, the world might think that their success came from their own intelligence and talents. Because of their lowly status, however, it is clear to all that whatever they have been able to achieve comes from God.
And so, if we want God to work through us, we must learn to be humble and lowly.
But, what does it mean to be humble and how do we know whether we are making progress in overcoming our pride and arrogance?
Thankfully, Saint Josemaria Escriba has left us in his writings some instruction in how to identify a lack of humility in our attitudes and behavior. I am going to read them in question form as an examination of conscience that we can do together. I would ask that we not make any judgments about them but listen to them and take them to heart. Though they are very challenging, they will help us to see where we need to grow in the virtue of humility and so serve our Lord with a more willing heart.
Do I think that what I do or say is better than what others do or say?
Do I insist on getting my way?
Do I continue to argue even though I know I am wrong?
When I think I’m right, do I argue stubbornly and rudely?
Do I have to give my opinion about everything?
Do I despise the point of view of others?
Do I fail to see my talents as a gift from God?
Do I think I deserve more credit, honor and esteem from others for what I do?
Do I criticize myself in hopes that others will tell me how good I am?
Do I make excuses for myself when I am criticized?
Do I hide humiliating faults from others so that they will not lose their good opinion of me?
Do I take satisfaction in hearing praise and feel glad that others have spoken well of me?
Do I feel hurt when others are held in higher esteem than I am?
Do I refuse work that I consider to be beneath me?
Do I seek to be singled out for credit and praise?
Do I use words or bring up topics that make me look smarter or more competent than I really am?
Am I ashamed that I lack certain skills or have less than others?
If you are like me, your conscience probably was stung by just about every question. Most of us have a long way to go before becoming the humble and lowly people God calls us to be.
There is one thing we should keep in mind. Humility is really nothing more than being honest with ourselves. Our pride tells us that we need to be strong, confident and capable people to be worth anything. To hide our weakness, we project a false image of ourselves. Humility is nothing more than accepting ourselves just as we are. It is nothing more than being the beautiful people God created us to be. Our pride, on the other hand, tries to get us to project a false self which appears to be stronger than our real self but is nothing more than a cheap substitute.
Once we learn to love ourselves just as we are, the way God loves us, we will naturally become more humble. Our sense of self will no longer come from what others think of us but from what God thinks of us. When we let go of that false self that is puffed up by pride, we will also find that others are drawn to us because we have something they want. Though we may fear that letting others see us as vulnerable and weak will make them despise us, we will discover that it actually makes us more loveable and approachable.
God loves the lowly and the humble. Until we become lowly and humble in our attitudes, speech and behavior, God cannot use us. Our greatest example of humility is Jesus Himself. Though God, He was willing to be born in a stable and crucified on a cross for us. At this Mass, He comes to us in the humble disguise of bread and wine. As we receive Him, let us ask Him to make us humble as well so that we can receive all the blessings of His Kingdom.