22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
"…conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts". (Sir 3:17)
To be honest, I have struggled with humility all my adult life. In the Rule of Saint Benedict there is Chapter 7 about the twelve steps of humility. They have that air of ancient piety and so need to be read carefully, carefully digested and the advice and help of wise spiritual elder to explain what they really mean! That's the problem with so much of our different Christian 'spiritualities', we try to push people into a one-size-fits-all template and yet that is not what the great wisdom of our spiritual tradition is about. The one phrase that held my attention, and in the end gave me a way to partially understand what true humility might be, is that phrase Benedict uses at the end of the twelfth step: "what was once toil and suffering has been transformed in Christ to become great joy and comfort to do the will of God". (RSB; 7)
To a young person struggling to make sense of a spiritual life that was like a green traffic light, somewhere in all this the effort and the hardships can, indeed are, transformed into a deep joy and love of God, found in this Christ-like discipleship, but it is my journey, in Christ, with others, not just anybody else's and I need to make sense of what happens in the context of my life, learning from the wisdom of others who have travelled the road before me, or whose wisdom helps my way! . I think that kind of insight freed me from an over reliance on directions; it led me to dig deep into the living Scripture and let the Word speak to me emerging in the context of life. So many years older, having celebrated a 66th birthday on St Aidan's Day and in my 40th year of ministerial service as a Priest, I feel able to share some small insight on what true humility might be. So here goes.
Firstly it is always about truth, authenticity and being honest, even if only with oneself, if you believe in Christ you cannot hide anything from Him, if you open to yourself to the Spirit, discernment will take you to confront and face both you deepest fears and your hidden joys. To be truly honest is to lose your life in the depths of God.
Secondly humility can never be about insincerity, false piety, deceptive words, gestures, actions that coat the Gospel in half lies and truths, it has to be about the reality of life and of ourselves.
Thirdly humility has to be open to constant change in oneself and in others, it knocks down any pretences we may have to hold the truth, for until the day of the Lord's coming we cannot fully ever know.
Lastly humility is about true obedience, listening with God, discerning what we are being called to do, going outside the known margins of Church and world to see the compassion and mercy of God in places we might not dare to ever think about let alone understand. For humility grows strong in dirt, in humus, in the stardust of which all creation is made. That is why I love this image of the Kingdom, no fine scarlet cardinals trains here, nor royal robes, no crowns, no vestments, no habits, no plush suits, only rawness only this reminder from Jesus: "Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
(Luke 14:13,14) There's true humility, each of us, sitting happily amongst the little ones of life!
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