Tuesday, March 6, 2012

“There is something in humility which strangely exalts the heart.”

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation. --Saint Augustine

Gospel text (Mt 23,1-12):
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
"The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people's shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.'
As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.'
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called 'Master';
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

Today, Jesus exhorts us to bear witness of our Christian life through our example, the consistency of our life and the honesty of our intentions.

While the term hypocrisy usually means a more conscious and active “not practicing what you preach,” I think its important to note the huge difference between hypocrisy and growth in faith. Remember, none of us is perfect but the standard we strive for is perfection. That is why our Lord gives us the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to “level the playing field” so to speak when we fall.

For our behavior to fit with that of our Lord Jesus, a gesture of humility is fundamental, as our Pope Benedict says: «I recognize myself for what I am, a frail creature, made of earth and destined to the earth, but also made in the image of God and destined to him».

Our American society is "fond of places of honor." We have honor rolls, radio and TV interviews, Halls of Fame, autograph sessions, awards banquets, and numerous other ways to honor others. While the Lord does call us to honor our parents (Dt 5:16; Sir 3:2ff) and all people (1 Pt 2:17), He is adamant that we do not seek honor for ourselves.

In our gospel passage noted above today, the scribes were revered for their standing in religious circles in society. This indicates that in their time they were among the most intelligent and best educated people in the world. They were professionals and experts in the Holy Scripture. Yet, despite the greatness of the scribes and the Pharisees, most of them rejected Jesus, the Messiah, and thus prepared the way for their own downfall. Their problem was pride. They exalted themselves, so God humbled them (Mt 23:12).

Therefore, "be humbled in the sight of the Lord" (Jas 4:10). Learn from Jesus, Who is gentle and humble of heart (Mt 11:29). "In your relations with one another, clothe yourselves with humility, because God 'is stern with the arrogant but to the humble He shows kindness.' Bow humbly under God's mighty hand" (1 Pt 5:5-6). Humble yourself (Mt 23:12; Lk 14:11; 18:14).

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