‘To be holy, we must be humble’

In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus preaches on humility. The frequency with which Our Lord addresses this topic indicates the importance of this virtue in the pursuit of sanctity. It is not out of line to argue that it is the virtue most necessary for holiness. As St. Joseph Calasanz said, "If you want to be holy, be humble; if you want to be holier, be more humble; if you want to be very holy, be very humble."

To practice humility, one must understand what it is. Hearing Our Lord tell us that we must take the lowest seat at the wedding banquet, we may think humility means having a low opinion of ourselves. Does this mean that humble people always think they are worse than everyone else? Are the humble those who are embarrassed by their gifts and talents, or worse yet, those who hide or ignore them?

Of course not. Yes, the humble recognize their littleness, their weaknesses and their limits, but everyone has these. What sets the humble apart is that, recognizing their weaknesses, they realize how much they must rely on the grace of God and the help of others.

However, humility does not require that we dwell only on weaknesses. The humble also recognize that the multitude of gifts we receive from God cannot be ignored. We have the dignity of being created out of love by Our God, Who is love. We have physical, intellectual and spiritual gifts instilled in us from Our Creator. God gives us everything we need to fulfill the plan He has for our salvation in this life. The humble do not stop at the recognition that without God they are helpless, but instead embrace the whole truth that with God all things are possible (Mt 19:26).

The truly humble do not despair, dwell in self-pity or think that they are garbage. They know their infinite value of being made in the image of God, and redeemed by Christ. The humble are not jealous or envious, because they know while God may bless others with more, He has blessed them - and will continue to bless them - with all they need in this life. Similarly, the humble do not seek praise for their standing in society, their possessions, their talents or any other admirable aspect of their lives, because they know that the source of all their goodness, from the virtue of hard work to the fruits of their labor, is God, and all praise goes to Him and Him alone. "Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory" (Ps 115:1).

God is the center of the life of the humble, and because they seek to love God and neighbor, they do not focus on themselves. C.S. Lewis says that when you meet a humble man, he will not think he is humble, because he will not be thinking of himself at all. In this, we see how humility is the opposite of the vice of pride. Interestingly enough, while the humble do not focus on themselves, they have the greatest self-awareness, for they are honest with themselves about their strengths and weaknesses.

Knowing that all comes from God, Who leads them to sanctity and salvation, the humble are ready to follow God's will, no matter where it leads them. They are more able to endure tragedy, suffering and disappointment, trusting that even those experiences can often be used as means for God's grace, for they lead to our calling on Him for mercy because we realize we cannot survive them on our own strength.

May we come to share in the humility of the One who as the all-powerful God humbled Himself and took the form of a man, and offered all He had for the salvation of the world. Through His grace, may we come to truly know ourselves, from our strengths to our sins, and thank God for all He offers us. Finally, may we always set our minds and hearts on the Father, ordering our lives not toward our will, but His.

Make us humble, Lord, that we may be exalted.

Fr. Wagner is Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde's secretary.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016