A Call for Humility

Posted in: Homilies

July 3, 2016 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

July 3, 2016
Luke 10:1-2, 17-20
Fr. George Smiga

I would like to reflect on the last line of today’s gospel. Jesus says, “Do not rejoice that the demons are subject to you, but rejoice instead that your names are written in heaven.” What is this line about? I would suggest to you that it is about humility. You see, Jesus gave his disciples real power to limit the influence of evil spirits, and that power was good. But Jesus did not want his disciples to be distracted by what they could do. This is why he says that they should rejoice that their names were written in heaven. It was a valuable thing for the disciples to drive out demons on earth, but it was even more valuable that God in heaven knew them and cared for them. What the disciples could do was important. What God does is even more important. Jesus wanted his disciples to understand that it was not about them. Understanding this is humility.

Humility is a virtue by which we see ourselves in the right perspective. It is a virtue that we need in our world today, because so many factors are trying to convince us that life is about us, about our own successes and importance.

David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times, offered a reflection in a recent interview. He was watching old footage on television of the victory celebration after World War II. In the segment Bing Crosby was hosting a celebration with the American troops. Crosby, said “ Well, its over. We’ve won. But I suppose today we do not feel so much proud as humbled.” What a sober and wonderful reflection. We won, but when you consider how many people died, how much was lost, how many other people helped, this would not be a time to gloat. Then, Brooks turned the channel to a football game. The quarterback threw a pass to the wide receiver who caught it. But after two yards, he was tackled. The defensive player jumped up, pumped his arms, beat his chest to celebrate what he had accomplished in that defensive play. Brooks said, “I thought to myself. I had just seen more self-adulation and praise over a two-yard gain than over winning World War II.”

Humility is the virtue by which we see ourselves in the right perspective. There is nothing about humility that says that we should not take satisfaction in what we can do. The disciples should have been pleased that they could drive out demons. We should be proud that we won World War II. The defensive football player should feel happy about the play he made. But all the things that we do are part of a larger picture, a picture in which God plays a role. Knowing that is humility.

You might be gifted as a parent. You should take pride in your ability to guide your children and teach them. But humility reminds you that what your children become is not entirely in your control. Their lives are part of a bigger picture to which you can only contribute. That is why your greatest joy should be to know that God knows your intention and whatever happens, God will stand with you. You might be given the gift of a great voice or a creative mind or the ability to organize and accomplish things. You should use those gifts freely. But humility tells you that ultimate success is not dependent simply on your talents. That is why your greatest joy should be that your name is written in heaven.

We should be proud of the things we can do. But it is not really about us. It is about what God can accomplish through the gifts we offer. This is why our greatest joy is, that no matter what happens, we are secure in God’s love.

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