Today’s first reading and Gospel focus our reflections on humility. They also remind us of that popular biblical passage from the prophet Micah (6:8): “This is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Many people may have a mistaken notion about “Christian humility.” It is not centered on thinking low of yourself or even denying your true worth, gifts, and talents. We readily accept that we are weak and sinful individuals, yet we always remain beloved creatures fashioned in God’s own image (Gn 1:26-27). Authentic humility is based on the recognition and thankful awareness that the virtues we have all originate in God’s love and grace. In addition, even if we fall into sin, authentic humility requires us to honestly acknowledge our faults and accept our need for God’s forgiveness.
Mary as Model. Christians can look to Mary as a shining example of humility, for even when she is told by the angel that she had been chosen to be the Mother of the Messiah, the very Son of God, she referred to herself as the mere “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). It is noteworthy that the word “handmaid” in the original New Testament Greek is: doula, which literally means “servant/slave.” Such was Mary’s humility; she put her life totally at God’s disposal.
Mary’s humility shines out further as she gives all glory and praise to God for the privileges she has received. She declares in her Magnificat (Lk 1:46-49): “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my savior; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid [slave].”
Reflection of John Paul II. In his homily for the fiftieth anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s definition of the dogma of Mary’s assumption into heaven (November 1, 1950-2000), Saint John Paul II noted that in her Magnificat “Mary shows what constituted the foundation of her holiness: deep humility…. Before the mystery of grace, the experience of a particular presence of God who has rested his gaze upon her, Mary feels a natural impulse of humility…. It is the reaction of someone who is fully aware of her own littleness before the greatness of God.”
The Pope continues: “This humility of spirit, this complete submission in faith, is particularly expressed in her ‘fiat’: ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.’” Truly, “the greatness of the gift corresponds to the depth of humility.”
Conclusion. In its most profound and most beautiful sense, humility simply means to strive to be like Jesus, Mary, the saints, and many other ordinary Christians that we personally know. We seek to imitate Jesus, who said: “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). Humility invites us to be like Jesus, who said: “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” (Mk 10:45). It means to “walk humbly with your God” (Mi 6:8).
James H. Kroeger, M.M.
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
I kneel before your heavenly throne,
Lord God of heaven and earth
worshiping in awe your boundless mercy
and grateful for your abundant grace
for in your love and compassion
you formed me out of the earth
and breathed into me
your life-giving Spirit.
O Lord, you fashioned me in your image
and became one with all humanity
that we might reflect your glory
in everything we say and do.
Lord, we are not worthy of so great a gift
but you remain ever faithful to us
healing our wounds and forgiving our failings,
faults and weaknesses.
Behold, I am not worthy yet still
you call me to your table of love
and communion with all your saints and
Souls of the just, both great and small.
All that I do and have and accomplish
springs from your Providence, O God.
Despise not my lowliness but accept
my life as tribute to your greatness.
Through Christ our Lord.
By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.