Homily for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C), 1 September, 2013
The Law of Humility
As Catholics we recognise our Lord Jesus Christ as Universal King, the Church celebrates this feast near the end of the Liturgical Year—at the end of October using the 1962 Missal or the Sunday before Advent using the 2002 Missal—either way, we know that kings rule kingdoms with laws. The Kingdom of Christ is no different.
One of the most important laws in Christ’s Kingdom is that of humility which says that,
“everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”
In other words, greatness in His Kingdom comes not from outdoing other people, outperforming them, and outdistancing them. No. Greatness in Christ’s eyes comes from serving people, from elevating them, helping them to advance, and keeping oneself in the background.
In our Blessed Lord’s very first sermon, He had taught the same law but using different words,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”—St Matthew 5.13
In today’s First Reading, we have this self-same law once more stated directly,
“conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved… Humble yourself… and you will find favour with God.”
This goes directly against everything our fallen world teaches us. It is extremely hard for us to swallow, which is why our Blessed Lord explained it using this unambiguous parable. Even the parable wasn’t enough. The law on humility is so fundamental that He taught it to us by living it out in a most extreme way: through his Passion and Death.
Jesus, the Lord of Heaven, came to earth and purposefully took the lowest place possible—that of a condemned criminal. He freely took on the most humiliating form of death—by Crucifixion. He allowed Himself to be stripped of every honour. He allowed his reputation on earth to be dragged through the mud by the lies and corruption of his enemies. Yet, because He humbled Himself so thoroughly, He has been glorified so magnificently. Such is the law of His Kingdom.
The folly of a man and the wisdom of a boy
The Law of Humility does not mean that we ought to sit around and do nothing, it simply means that we should remember that we are not God, that God is God, and we are dependent on Him. This is often harder to remember than you would think.
On Thursday past, I went, with my husband and a friend visiting us from England, to the new exhibition centre on the Titanic. It has been said that, after the great ship was built, a reporter asked the man who had built it how safe she would be. ”Not even God can sink it,” he answered. Well God didn’t have to sink it; an iceberg was quite sufficient.
When our Blessed Lord taught us that to enter His Kingdom we have to become like little children, this was one of the characteristics he had in mind.
Children tend to remember more easily that they are not God. They know they are dependant on their parents for food, shelter, and everything else. It’s natural for them to accept being dependent on God as well.
But it is not a sad, pessimistic dependence. True humility is joyful, as it opens the door to a real relationship with God, something arrogant self-sufficiency does not allow.
A couple of years ago at a Catholic summer Bible camp, one of the seven-year-olds won the silver medal in the mini-soccer competition. He was so happy that he wore it round his neck all the time. On the last day of the camp this boy left one of the leaders a note. The note mentioned that he had left the medal in the chapel. The leader went to the chapel, but he couldn’t find it.
After the campers had gone home, the leaders were doing the final check over the site to find any left behind items, the same leader went into the chapel and found that boy’s medal somewhere he had never even thought to look on his first trip: it was on the crucifix. The boy had stacked up three chairs so that he could reach high enough and put it around Christ’s neck.
Who do you think was the happier person, the little boy or the man who built Titanic?
How to grow in humility
As Catholics and followers of Christ we know that following the Law of Humility leads to interior peace, joy, wisdom, and a greater share in God’s glory. This is what Christ wants for us. The more we grow in humility, the more we will experience these things. So how can we grow in humility?
There are two things that every single one of us can do in order to grow in humility. Two things that we can do today, tomorrow, every day this week, and for the rest of our lives.
The first is to pray. Every time that we pray we acknowledge God’s greatness and our dependence on Him. Every time we pray, we are exercising the virtue of humility, whether it is a short prayer or a long prayer, a good prayer or a distracted prayer. If we want to get humble, we need to pray more. Let us reactivate our commitment to a decent life of prayer. Prayer is the perfect workout for strengthening humility. Those of us who are clerics are bound by our vows to pray the daily office. Those who are members of the Priestly Fraternity of the Dowry of Mary are additionally encouraged to say the Rosary daily as well. Many people have recommended the Rosary to everyone, as St Pius V said,
“with the spread of this devotion the meditations of the faithful have begun to be more inflamed, their prayers more fervent, and they have suddenly become different men; the darkness of heresy has been dissipated, and the light of the Catholic faith has been broken forth again.”
Secondly, we can stop talking so much about ourselves. Our fallen nature often pushes us to be the centre of our conversations. But our Christian nature is reaching out to take an interest in our neighbours. This week, let us give our Christian nature a hand. Choose one relationship, and this week, make a concentrated effort to be more interested in knowing what the other person is going through, rather than telling them what you are going through.
Today, as at every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of The Mass, our Blessed Lord humbles Himself by coming to us in the Holy Eucharist. He reminds us at each celebration, that humility is the secret to a fulfilling and fruitful life.
Let us thank Him for that, and when we have Him in our hearts, let us ask Him for this favour, which He is so eager to give us:
“Lord Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts more and more like yours.”
- Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
- Psalms 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11
- Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24
- Luke 14:1, 7-14
- Read them online