Third Sunday of Lent
Nearness to God Requires Humility
Hopefully, we all want to get closer to deepen our relationship with God.
This desire to get closer to God is a precious gift from the Holy Spirit; because we were made for God; we cannot attain the meaning and fulfillment we long for without living in communion with God. As the Catechism puts it: "Man was made to live in communion with God, in whom he finds happiness" (#45). The deeper this communion, the stronger our friendship with God (the closer we are to God), the fuller our experience of happiness, here on earth and forever in heaven.
Today, we are being reminded by God, of one of the absolutely essential ingredients for greater and persistent union with God: humility. In today's First Reading, Moses senses God's presence vaguely and is moving toward God on his own terms, when he sees the burning bush, and as he draws closer God stops him. There is a limit to how close we can come to God on our own terms, at some point we will need to humble ourselves before God, just as Moses was commanded by God to humble himself before God at that sacred space. Only then, only when we are conscious of our limitations, of our earthliness and neediness, can we truly begin to know God, who is all-holy, all-wise, all-powerful, and all-loving.
Three things especially are worth noting about humility.
Part I: Humility Is a Christian Virtue. A good definition of humility, found in the Catholic Encyclopedia is, “Humility signifies lowliness or submissiveness and it is derived from the Latin humilitas or, as St. Thomas [Aquinas] says, from humus, i.e. the earth which is beneath us. As applied to persons and things it means that which is abject, ignoble, or of poor condition…Humility in a higher and ethical sense is that by which a man has a modest estimate of his own worth and submits himself to others.”
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." Ephesians 2:8
Humility is the “mother of all virtue” and is the foundation of holy living. Without humility, you cannot obtain holiness.
We are dependent on God. Humility is the disposition to accept that truth. When we consider our defects, weaknesses, and countless errors, we ought to acquire a sense of something lacking in us: I’m not perfect! A practical recognition of this dependence means obeying God's commandments - the teachings of Jesus and his Church.
Part II: Humility Gives Us Courage"Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance." - Saint Augustine
The second thing to notice about this key virtue is that it is the source of another virtue that we all need and desire: courage. This is the call of every Catholic: to possess fortitude / inner strength to the extent that we willingly offer up our lives for God and the Church. We all need courage to resist temptations, to persevere through difficulties, and to step out of our comfort zones so we can fulfill our life-mission.
Part III: Humility Gives Us PeaceThe third thing to remember about the virtue of humility is that it brings us interior peace. Humility reminds us that we cannot control everything. And so, the humble person has realistic expectations. They put forth their best efforts, but at the same time they are aware of their limitations. When reality throws curve balls at the humble person, they don't waste time complaining and getting frustrated. They quickly and gracefully adjust, making whatever changes they can to salvage the situation or move on to the next task. They more easily maintain peace in their hearts, because they aren't surprised by their limitations, and they know that God can work through them in spite of those limitations.
Conclusion: Ways to Grow in Humility First, we can cultivate the virtue of humility simply by spending time every day in heartfelt prayer, even if it's only a few minutes a day, even if it’s only using the simple prayers, we can find in any Catholic prayer book. When we exercise humility, it grows, like a muscle.
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Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.