Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Humility
We are, by nature, self-centred. As the saying goes - "If you think I am conceited now, you should have met me when I was perfect"! Today's readings speak to us of the value of the virtue of humility in developing a Christian response to life.

Zepaniah 2: 3; 3: 12-13 - These excerpts from the Old Testament written some 600 years before Christ emphasise the need for humility in those who would follow the Lord; in addition, the Prophet establishes the connection between humility and the acquisition of truth.

Corinthians 1: 26-31 - With his customary clarity of expression, Paul reminds the egotistical Corinthians that the message of Christ came first to those who had little or nothing; and this was done to show up those who believed they had everything.

Matthew 5: 1-12 - This proclamation by Christ is also recorded by St. Luke and is universally known as the "Beatitudes". Both authors make the point that virtue has its own reward and highlight the virtues of justice, compassion and humility.

Point 1: - Some years ago, the hit parades included a popular song "It's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way"! Such sentiments are at variance with Christ's advice to His disciples - "learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart". Thomas Eliot, English poet and essayist, wrote of humility as being the most difficult of virtues to achieve. In the light of Christ's advice to His disciples,"learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart". then, it is worthwhile considering what is meant by Christian humility.

Point 2: - Pagan tradition, from before and after Christ, has no time for humility. Other virtues are recognised and practised - bravery, loyalty, temperance, justice. But not humility! Humility equated with weakness and therefore was despised. Jewish tradition, on the other hand, acknowledged humility as a worthwhile virtue. It has been suggested that this is part explanation of their willingness to tell jokes against themselves! The Book of Numbers, 12:3, records that "Moses was a very humble man, more so than anyone else on earth". I suppose there are some who would see such a statment as being boastful. And in the second Book of samuel, we read "You deliver a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down" (2 Sam 22:8)

Point 3: - Humility is widely misunderstood, and many mistakes continue to be written on the subject. In essence, humility is the ability to recognise the truth about ourselves and the ability to acknowledge that truth. The virtue of humility enables us to recognise that we are God's creatures, and the good we possess has come about by using the gifts and talents given to us. As St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians -"What have you that you have not received? And if you have received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"(1 Cor. 4 - 7)

Humility does not mean putting ourselves down in comparison with others. It does not mean belittling the talents we may have been endowed with by God. It has nothing to do with wealth or status,honors or position in society or one's state in life. A poor person may be as guilty od pride as a wealthy person my be seen to be humble. Humility really is the ability to see ourselves as God sees us. In this light, humility reflects strength of character rather than weakness.

Conclusion: - And what of us? How do we measure up against this yardstick of humility?Are we honest with ourselves, or are we inclined to live in a fool's paradise hiding behind a facade of self-deception?

Are we ready to acknowledge that often, more often than not possibly, we fail to give a Christian response to life's situations? Are we humble enough to ask forgiveness for such failures in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Humility at this level does not come easily. It has to be worked at!

Scriptural reference: "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time" (1 Pet 5:6)