Last Saturday in his keynote address at the Diocesan Liturgical Conference, Bishop Strickland warned about the danger of arrogance — certainly arrogance in regard to Church teachings and documents on the liturgy, but really any form of arrogance. The Bishop said that arrogance, that is, thinking I know best (and no one is going to tell me otherwise) is at the root of every sin. He emphasized that joy and humility go hand-in-hand. The readings for this 26th Sunday complement appropriately our shepherd’s message: Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5). St. Paul in the second reading is encouraging us to have the humility of Jesus Christ — not regarding ourselves as equal to God, but emptying ourselves (and our egos) for the sake of others. While the virtue of selflessness is generally admired by society, the humility to which we are being called is far greater than the worldly trait of unpretentiousness. We are being called to practice the humility of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is something that the chief priests and elders could not understand in the gospel reading (Mt 21:28-32). In “The Parable of the Two Sons,” Jesus shows how tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before the religious leaders. And why? Because the sinners of Jesus’ day had true repentance for their sins and a willingness to ask for God’s mercy, which are signs of genuine humility before God.
We may not be sinners in the same class as those of Jesus’ day, but as those who are still suffering the consequences of Original Sin, we do have our own sins of pride and arrogance. The good news is that Mother Church gives us concrete ways to conquer these sins with the grace of Christ. The first way is that we must make a little time for substantial prayer everyday, morning and evening. Even if it is just an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be (prayed with our whole heart), we must make God the beginning and end of our day. Throughout the day (like silent time in the car), we can offer prayers of thanksgiving, intercession, praise, and forgiveness. Prayer is our way of admitting to God, “You are God; I am not.” The second way to maintain humility is to go to sacramental confession regularly. It is not as if to say that we are constantly committing mortal sins, but it helps us recognize where we are still arrogant — where we are still hanging on to our “favorite sins” (as Fr. McLaughlin always likes to preach). It forces us to admit we are not perfect and that we are in need of God’s grace. (By the way, if you are serious about growth in humility, confession at least every month is very helpful.) The third way to overcome pride is the apostolate — service of our neighbor. It means volunteering our precious time for something greater, and if we cannot give time, we are generous with what we have. When we are generous, it reflects God’s generosity to us personally.
The generosity of God is overwhelming when you think about it. In the holy offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass, God offers His Son for our salvation, for our spiritual well-being, and He invites us to personal intimacy with Christ. A closer relationship with Jesus should lead us to have His attitude and His humility. Our Lord is so humble that he comes to us under simple food and simple drink. If our God humbles Himself this much, what will our response be? How can our humility reflect His humility?
Reflection by Fr. Nolan Lowry, STL, Pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish in Centerville.