Sunday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Today our first reading urges us to, Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his commands; seek righteousness, seek humility[1].

Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues. Pride, the opposite of humility, destroys all virtue. The moment we start looking into the mirror and turning in upon ourselves, thinking, “I am so humble” or “I am so generous” or “I am so good” or whatever – we begin to destroy that virtue through pride. Humility is truth, as saints and spiritual writers remind us – the truth of who we are before God – creatures who in and of ourselves are nothing.

Let us consider St. Francis, when he was about to die, he asked some of his friars to lay him naked on the ground, so that he could be humbled by this reminder of his nothingness. Remember you are dust, and unto dust you will return, as we often say during the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday.

But humility is much more than awareness of our nothingness. In the spiritual classic Transformation in Christ by Dietrich Von Hildebrand[2] he points out that only in a secondary sense is humility recognition of our own unimportance. “What (humility) demands,” He writes, “is not a reluctant or resigned admission of our nothingness: it is, primarily, a joyous response to the infinite glory of God”[3]. He continues: “Humility calls upon us to allow our hearts to be wounded by the glory of God, to fall on our knees in loving adoration, and to deliver ourselves over to God entirely . . . (so that) our center of gravity is thus transferred from ourselves to God”[4].

With this in mind, I can easily tell you who is the most humble person in our parish on any given Sunday – it is the one who most delights in the glory of God, who sings at the top of his or her voice, in total self-forgetfulness, Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth![5]

I’m afraid that our anemic weekly repetition of the Gloria may be an indication of our lack of humility and our lack of awareness of and appreciation for the infinite glory of God. And I include myself in this reproach. Sometimes it seems like the most insincere and uninspiring part of Mass is the Gloria, as if we don’t mean a single word of what we are saying: (monotone voice): “Glory to God in the highest . . . we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.”

My brother, my sister, we all need to wake up and remember in our hearts the Person we are praising with our lips. God is a real Person who wants a relationship with us. Let us sing the Gloria, in the words of Von Hildebrand, being “filled with the blissful consciousness that the infinitely perfect Person – God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and all good – is the (source) of all being”[6].

We cannot be gazing up into heaven and gazing at the mirror at the same time. We cannot be looking at God and looking at ourselves at the same time. It has to be one or the other. If we are busy thinking about ourselves, caught up in the cares of the world, the lure of wealth and the desire for other things[7] then we can’t really sing the Gloria. (Looking in mirror and mumbling): “Glory to God in the highest.”

What can we do to throw out our mirrors, glorify God and discover the blessedness, the happiness of the humble, of those who are meek and poor in spirit? We need to begin by seeing this virtue of humility as attractive and desirable, and begin to ask God incessantly for true humility.

One of the beautiful fruits of humility that we all desire is joy. I’m not talking about mere pleasure or worldly happiness, but exceeding joy. The Blessed Virgin Mary is a perfect example. In her Magnificat, she exclaimed, My spirit rejoices exceedingly in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favor upon the humility of his servant[8].

Is God not allowed to humble himself? Or are we going to love him less because he humbles himself? He is still a Person even though he is humble and hidden. When we receive the host at Mass, we do not receive a thing; we receive a Person! Jesus in the Host is not a thing; he is a Person, who in his humility makes us happy: “Behold the Lamb of God” . . . hidden in this host . . . “Happy are those who are called to his supper”!

That’s one reason I agree whole-heartedly with our Pope and our Bishop in their promotion of Eucharistic Adoration. A holy hour is an opportunity to put away our mirrors, to humble and empty ourselves of all the noise and distraction, to gaze upon God and realize that this Host is indeed the Person of the Infinite God. When we truly realize this, then we will sing to Jesus in the Gloria with all our hearts: “You alone are the holy one, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the Glory of God the Father.”

Paul is telling the people of Corinth and us that the reality which we do not see is more powerful, more certain, a deeper truth than the reality that we do see.  The wisdom that our minds cannot come to is infinitely superior to the wisdom that is based solely on our intellectual capacity.

When sickness, trauma, or tragedy hit us; when our loved ones become ill, injured or die; it is Jesus Christ and Christ alone who brings order to the chaos of our lives. We are people who have been enlightened by Christ. Jesus Christ is God's answer to every question that has ever been or ever can be posed. We are called today to reveal the true wisdom of the Lord to the world. The wisdom not based on great intellects, but on the power of God. The world needs this still new wisdom. Enlightened by Christ, we are the light of the world ■

[1] Zephaniah 2:3
[2] Filósofo y teólogo católico alemán nació en 1889 y murió en 1977; fue hijo del escultor Adolf von Hildebrand.
[3] Transformation in Christ, p. 159
[4] 160.
[5] The Gloria is an important part of Mass, first appearing in 380 A.D. and entering into the Roman Mass by the 6th century.
[6] 159
[7] Mk 5:19
[8] Luke 1:47-8
Ilustration: GIOTTO di Bondone,  Legend of St Francis: 20. Death and Ascension of St Francis1300, Fresco, 270 x 230 cm, Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris