This Sunday Jesus invites us “to take the lowest place,” and to welcome “the poor, the crippled, and lame” as VIPs. And the reason he gives for this: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Can we all get a big “HUMILITY IS A VIRTUE!” up in here?
Why does humility come so hard for many of us? Because it is just too hard to be humble when you’re so darn good? Well…anyway, there are those for whom humility comes natural. Evidently the Mother of Jesus was one of those. The canticle proclaims that she rejoices, because God has chosen her in her humility and her lowliness. We’ve said it before. We’ll say it again: “humility increases our capacity for God’s grace.” And then, as Mary herself proclaims, “God has done great things for me!” In humility so much more of love can be accomplished.
Becoming humble always starts with the admission, “God is God and I am not.” Once we admit that (and admit, therefore, that we are not perfect in judgment or in any way perfectly in control of anything or anyone), then we can become the instruments of God’s healing, redemption, and sanctification. In fact, in humility we stand the very best chance of being saved ourselves.
Holy Wisdom proclaimed the primacy of humility in the first reading as we heard:
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.
Mary knew these words of the Old Testament by heart. They were for her the instructions on how TO BE when God may call upon you. Indeed he did call upon her. And the rest is salvation history.
At the same time, “Humility is not Pious Pisch Parsch” (Msgr. John Riley in a homily to high school seminarians, ca 1978.) This is to say that humility is not “Casper Milquetoast”; it is not the proverbial “wilting lily.” Humility takes a well-honed consciousness of the presence of God in one’s life. It requires courage as a disciple of Jesus, the kind of courage that can carry a cross. Humility can be the spiritual project of a lifetime—especially if we are not inclined to it. Most of all we must take encouragement from St. Paul, who encourages those in his listening to believe that life in Christ is not a mountain too high to climb. God’s grace is enough for us—especially if we are humble.