Monday, July 4, 2011

On Humility, Sermon of July 3rd

See how humble our Jesus is: a donkey was his throne in Jerusalem!
St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way 606

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 3rd, 2011
Matthew 11:25-30

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

As we hear our Savior’s words my yoke is easy, and my burden light, we may ponder and question within ourselves: “How can it be that taking up a yoke should make our way easier? How can adding a burden make us lighter?” And, if we consider the matter, we will not be surprised to discover that St. Augustine (who asked and answered most of the modern questions we have about the Bible and the Faith) discussed this point also, and offers us a most insightful answer.
How can a burden lighten the load? St. Augustine gives us the analogy of a bird, take for example a dove. As we consider the dove we recognize that its wings add weight to its body – in this sense, they are a burden. As the dove walks along upon the ground, it must bear this load, this burden of its own wings. It carries these wings along.
However, if anyone – desiring to free the bird of this additional weight – came and clipped the wings back, who would say that he had made the bird lighter? Surely, the bird would weigh less, but now it would be confined to the ground and could no longer fly to the heavens. This small burden of the wings, truly lightens and frees the bird.

So it is with the imitation of Christ. On one level, following our Lord is a yoke and a burden – we take up his example, we take up the Cross, and we follow. However, more profoundly, we must say that this yoke is easy and the burden is light; since, by bearing this load we made truly free.
And what is the burden our Savior gives us? What is the yoke by which we are to imitate the good Jesus?

The Lord says learn from me. And what are we to learn? He does not say learn from me that I created the heavens and the earth, that I am the almighty God. Nor does he say learn from me that I have worked great miracles and converted peoples. Nor even does Christ tell us learn from me that I have preached well and proclaimed the truth with power.
Rather, before all else, Jesus tells us learn from me that I am meek and humble of heart. Humility, Christ tells us to imitate his humility before all else.

Humility is the foundation of the virtues, as charity is their queen. But what is humility?
Principally, humility is about how we relate to God. To be humble is to admit that every good thing we have and every good act we do comes from God as from its first cause. We are only instruments – free instruments, true, who cooperate with his grace – but still, we are only instruments in the hand of God. Thus, whatever good we possess must be credited more to God than to ourselves.
However, when it comes to evil, to vice, and to sin, this we claim for ourselves. Whatever is good in us comes from God, but whatever is evil comes solely from ourselves.

Hence, in true humility we admit that we are nothing without God, but we quickly add that – by his grace – the good Lord makes us to be something great. The virtue of humility is that burden that, by lowering us in our own estimation, raises us to the heights of heaven by the grace of God.

Humility also has an aspect of relation to others. Humility does not mean ignoring certain objective facts: We cannot deny it if we participate more fully in the sacramental life of the Church than our neighbor. It is ok to admit that we are more faithful to Sunday Mass than another.
Moreover, by certain manifest facts, we can even say that we seem to be further along in the spiritual life than others. It will do no good to completely ignore reality or to simply refrain from making any conclusion whatsoever – this would be a bit ridiculous.

Still, humility leads us to think less of ourselves in the sense that we admit that whatever is good in us is from God – therefore, we cannot boast over others, but we must give the glory to God alone. Indeed, perhaps today you are raised up above your neighbor, but maybe tomorrow you will fall and God will raise him up in your place. This is humility, to recognize it all depends upon God and there is no room for our boastful pride.
Moreover, we know that we have each been given many graces, and we have wasted many of them. Perhaps our neighbor has been given less graces and has done more with the little he had. Thus, we can never know who is truly greater; and it is always God who is greatest anyways.

Humility, united with charity, will certainly get us to heaven. And so we must pray for the virtue of humility. But be careful, God just might give you what you ask for. Because humility is gained only through suffering humiliations, and so we must receive these with joy as coming from the good Lord.
St. Josemaria Escriva, one of the great saints of modern time, spoke well to this point: “You are not humble,” he said, “when you humble yourself, but when you are humbled by others and bear it willingly for Christ.”
To be truly humble is to desire the lowest place and, when the lowest place is given you, to receive it with joy.
Lowering ourselves in the eyes of others, Christ our Savior will raise us up on high.