Come Up Higher

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2014/01/16 at 12:00 AM
Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers
Our Lord says, “Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  Humility doesn’t mean having low self-esteem, or being overly pious or holy because true humility isn’t about us.  Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking about yourself less.
What does humility look like?  When Solomon became King of Israel, he asked God to give him “an understanding mind [wisdom] to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil […] It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.  And God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word’” (1 Kings 3:9-12).
To be humble is to live with the realization that I am constantly in the presence of God.  To realize that everything I think, say and do is done in His presence.  To acknowledge that everything that I am, everyone I meet, and all that I experience in this world is His creation.  To understand that every time I go against Christ and the teachings of his Church, I am separating myself from being able to have a personal encounter with God.
Yet, in our weakness, we often spurn humility and turn our backs on God when we sin; when we believe that we know better than God; when we think we are the author of our own success; when we live by our own rules apart from the Church; when we ignore God’s plan.  In our pride, we too often live absent the awareness that we are forever in the presence of God.
The virtue of humility permits us to live before God as we truly are, and the first step in deepening our relationship with God is to understand and acknowledge that we are prideful.  Pride is the opposite of humility and seeks to draw attention to oneself.  Pride is shallow, focusing on the “outer life” (how I appear to other people) and denying the “inner life” (how I appear to God).  Pride may be expressed in different ways: coming to Church on Sunday but deliberately living apart from the teachings of the Church the rest of the week; taking personal credit for our accomplishments and achievements as if they had not been the result of God’s divine goodness and grace; minimizing our sins because “I’m such a good person”, and by emphasizing and dwelling on the sins of others.  When pride is carried to the extent that a person is unwilling to acknowledge dependence on God, and refuses to submit his or her will to God and the lawful authority of His Church, it is gravely sinful.
True humility can only begin when our eyes are fixed upon Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Peter knelt before Jesus and said, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.”  Mary Magdalene wept at the feet of Jesus and dried her tears with her hair.  The Roman centurion told Jesus that he was not worthy that he should enter under his roof.  The humble recognition of our own sinfulness allows us to experience the mercy of God.  When Jesus speaks to the Apostles concerning the grace of true humility, He uses today’s parable about assuming places of honor. In the end, Jesus Himself models this behavior for His Apostles, by becoming the servant of all.  “While on earth, go to the lowest place at the table” Jesus tells us.  “Later on, at the resurrection of the righteous, you will be brought up higher.”

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