Humility Is Key

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2016/04/10 at 12:00 AM

When we come together to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, after we make the Sign of the Cross, the very first thing we do is call to mind our sins, and then we make a public acknowledgement of our sinfulness by praying together the Confiteor.
This is an ancient prayer that has varied over time, but its usage at the beginning of Mass has been a mainstay in both Eastern and Western liturgies for many, many centuries now.
The purpose of the Confiteor is not simply to acknowledge our guilt before God, but also to dispose ourselves to receive His grace.
And to emphasize our contrition, we are encouraged to beat our breasts three times as we say the words: “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” – a homage of sorts to the humble tax collector we hear about in today’s Gospel.
Today’s Gospel parable gives us a very important look into the mind of Christ and how He views sinners.
In His parable our Lord compares a Pharisee and a tax collector. The irony of this story is that Pharisees were supposed to be holy and righteous people, while tax collectors were thought to be the most morally bankrupt people in ancient Hebrew society.
Yet it is the humble tax collector whom our Lord holds out to us as a model in the parable. Unlike the Pharisee, who is convinced of his own righteousness, the tax collector fully recognizes and admits his sinfulness in the face of the Almighty.
What we learn in this parable is that even the worst sinners can be made righteous in the eyes of God. Regardless of the gravity or number of our sins, there is hope for us all.
Even if we have committed the most terrible of sins – and even done so repeatedly – we can still be made righteous; we can still be saved!
The key is humility. This is why the Confiteor at the beginning of Mass is so important: it helps us to be more humble, and this makes us more pleasing to God.
Our first reading shows us that not only does the virtue of humility help to justify us in God’s eyes, our humility disposes God to listen to our prayers. Sirach tells us that: “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest until it reaches its goal.”
As we know, humility is nothing more than a recognition of the truth about oneself. It is through the virtue of humility that we see ourselves as we truly are in God’s eyes.
Humility is the recognition that God is God, and that we’re not – and that we’re in constant need of His grace and mercy. Thus, it is the foundational virtue that we all must cultivate if we ever hope to grow in holiness.
Humility shows us our sinfulness and spiritual poverty; it also shows us how good God is, and how merciful He desires to be to all mankind. Yet without humility, we have no claim on God’s mercy.
The beautiful thing is that the more humble we are here on earth, the more exalted we will be in Heaven! Jesus Himself tells us in the Gospel today that, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
We see this played out in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, during her life on earth, perfectly embodied this most important of virtues. And now in Heaven she is the most powerful, glorious, and exalted saint of all!
Our Gospel makes another point that we should carefully heed. That is that we should be careful of judging both others and ourselves. The Pharisee makes two critical errors: thinking too highly of himself, and too quickly thinking poorly of the tax collector.
When we see others commit sin, especially if the sin is grave, we are often quick to impugn the character of that person, often ascribing to them motives that we have no way of knowing are present in that person’s mind and heart.
And yet at the same time, when we are caught in a serious sin, how often do we make excuses for our behavior? How often do we hold others to a higher standard than we hold ourselves? How often do we think more of ourselves than we really should?
During this past year I’ve made it a point to speak a lot about the nature of sin. This is because I want you to understand, brothers and sisters, that sin is an affliction, a cancer.
It is the most destructive force in the universe, capable of robbing a person of eternal salvation – and there’s no greater tragedy than that.
If we do not quickly repent of a sin or if we fail to root out a sin from our lives, it quickly becomes an enslaving habit. And if the habitual sin is mortal, its binding power is all the more fierce, making it even harder to be free of it.
So while sin is an affliction that one brings upon himself through his own choices, as we consider sin’s cancerous and destructive power, we can see that our fellow sinners are in need of our pity more than they are in need of our wrath and judgment.
The truth of the matter is that we never know what circumstances have led a person to commit the sins he commits. So we mustn’t judge their hearts.
But let’s be clear about something: having pity on a fellow sinner doesn’t mean that we should ever excuse sin. Sin not only hurts the sinner and those around him, it is an offense to God and should therefore be always avoided, and at all cost.
So while we should never judge another person’s heart, we are called to judge actions.
If we see that someone is doing something wrong, we should – in charity to that person andout of love for God – point that out to them, for correcting or admonishing a sinner is a
spiritual work of mercy.

But our aim in correcting others should never be to appease our own anger or to inflate ourown sense of self-righteousness. Rather, because sin is so destructive, our aim should always
be that person’s repentance and freedom from the cancer of sin.

This is especially important for parents to remember as they admonish their children. Whileit is natural for parents to get angry when they see their children sin, anger mustn’t be the
driving factor in correcting a child; concern for their soul should be!

If ever we find it difficult to admonish a fellow sinner without pride or rashness of judgment,we would do well to consider our own sins and our own need for mercy.
Again, this is why the virtue of humility is so very necessary! Humility helps us to see thatwhenever a person sins, even if they sin against us, it is still God Who is most offended by
the sin. And humility reminds us of the many times we wronged others.

As we call to mind our own sins, humility helps us to bear wrong patiently, which is anotherspiritual work of mercy.
My brothers and sisters, each of us is a sinner in needs of God’s mercy. Let us then bear withone another patiently, correcting each other as necessary out of love.
And let us always strive to confess our own sins and faults courageously and humbly so thatwe may always be pleasing in God’s sight and receive His mercy.
Our Lady, Virgin Most Powerful and Refuge of Sinners


27 October 2013

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
To enable the audio, lease go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

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