Humility is a virtue we often undervalue in this world. We are taught that all that counts is to win—to be Number One—no matter the cost. Every day we see some “winners” who have “won” through intimidation, cheating, conniving, and climbing success ladders on the shoulders and backs of others. (Just think about those recent news reports about the mom and daughter who cheated in the voting for homecoming court so the daughter could “win”!) We are encouraged by society to “blow our own horns” (music reference) and to be our own public relations agent. Often pride may mask itself as a false humility, and you know it and see it—someone who denigrates themselves after doing well while just fishing for compliments.
True humility is knowing the truth about yourself—it is what reconciliation calls us to in our faith. The key to true humility lies in knowing and understanding the source of our worthiness and our wins. True humility is honest: no false fronts (pretending we are something we are not—so no self-deception). True humility is telling the truth (but not tactless savagery), it is acting with integrity (by honoring our promises and commitments), it is admitting faults (telling ourselves the truth), it is giving credit where credit is due, and it is not making excuses or casting blame regarding our failures. We are called in humility and truth as believers to allow the Holy Spirit to enter and penetrate our hearts, minds and souls in order to live in the awareness of our need for God’s grace.
The spiritual writer Andrew Murray (1828-1917) in his book “Humility: The Beauty of Holiness” (1895) wrote: “Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with other virtues as it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows God to do all.” This idea is deeply challenging to us all in today’s social media, self-image branding world we live in. The “casting of the self” became Murray's life theme. He served sixty years of ministry in the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa, wrote more than 200 books and tracts on Christian spirituality and ministry, he did extensive social work and founded educational institutions—all outward signs of the inward grace that Murray experienced by continually “casting himself” on Christ He imitated Christ in his life and work and actions—as we are all called to do as believers.
Today, Palm Sunday, we hear how Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death.” Palm Sunday is about His Passion, Death and Resurrection (as is every other Sunday). We can shout and cheer and lay down palm branches all we want, but if we miss the fact that we do so because Jesus is God and we are saved forever by God’s grace, then we miss the point. Palm (Passion) Sunday is a good time to truly humble ourself and reflect on the mystery of our salvation work in us, and for others.
With Palm/Passion Sunday we enter into this Holiest Week as a Community to share all the great symbols and rituals of our Catholic belief. Have a “Great Week”—as this week is called in the liturgy of ancient Jerusalem. God bless you and keep singing in your hearts!
Just a Note: Here is a lovely song about being humble—enjoy!