Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Humility and Divinity

Father John J. Lombardi

Q.: What is one of the most important virtues, yet most unpopular?

A.: Humility.

The country singer sang: "It's hard to be humble"-and we all know it.

A priest was visiting his parishioners and met a man who never came to church, who said: "Father, I don't want to go there -your church is filled with hypocrites." The pastor quipped: "Yeah, I know, but don't let that keep you away--we have room for one more." In some ways we're all hypocrites and need humility, humbling.

Mother Teresa was once asked, "Have you ever been tempted to be proud?" She replied: "Proud about what?" and added: "God does all the work through my sisters and volunteers.'

She attributed all glory to God. So should we.

Today's Gospel (Lk. 18: 9-14) depicts the vice and virtue of Pride and Humility; selflessness and selfishness. Which one are you choosing, living, embracing?

Now, think about this-the phrase "politics as usual": these days, politicians are omni-presently claiming: "Here's what I'VE done;" "Look at ME and my excellent programs;" and: "All the great programs are MINE." I, me ,mine: three of the most dangerous words in the universe. Now obviously, politicians have to speak about, and trump up, themselves to get elected and forward their cause, but sometimes it goes overboard and, unfortunately, we spiritualists sometimes mimic the secularists' bad tendencies.

Pope Benedict says that the mistake of the Pharisee (in all of us?) is that he didn't need God: he did all his religious "shtick" on his own-without God: he became holy, was saved and followed the law devoutly all without God

What are the three heresies of the Pharisees?

  • Self-rightousness=self made-i.e., I don't need God. In his excellent book, Dinesh D'Souza, a recent convert to the Catholic Faith, says that many scientists (not all) in today's world deny God and also claim that religion and science can't go together. And yet D'Souza names scientists like Copernicus, Brahe, Newton, Kepler, who were faith-filled men and excellent scientists at the same time. It has only been since the twentieth-century that some scientists have divorced Faith and God from "their project"-saying, like the French scientist Laplace to Napoleon who asked him where was God in his theory: "I have no need of that hypothesis." Many have rejected God and are trying to "make it"-and their theories-on their own, without God and, often, their egos and aggression only get bigger. Don't let this happen to you
  • Pride: See above, or think about Sinatra's song: "I did it my way." No-try God's Way humbly.
  • Hyprocirital: We say one thing and do another-we are not consistent, perfected. We give false promises and cover our sinful insides with outer candy-coating. Recently President Bush gave a challenging speech about Cuba, saying:" The Cuban leaders promised individual liberty. Instead they denied their citizens basic rights…In Cuba it is illegal to change jobs, to change houses, to travel abroad and to read books or magazines without the express approval of the state. It is against the law for more than three Cubans to meet without permission…The tropical paradise has become a communist gulag…" The president quoted one relative of a political prisoner, saying: "The Cuban government has become a 'killing machine' ".

Communists-not only Castro-promise one thing and do another. Theirs is a tyranny of traitorism, esp for those who claim to be "liberators". We all need to avoid hypocrisy by humility's help of self-correction and grounding in God.

What to do: Top Ten List of Helps to Humility…

  • Acts of humility: open the door for someone; make yourself lower or last in line; step back from stepping up to self-acclaim.
  • All for His glory-I recently complimented Br. Andrew after a sermon he gave here and his two-word response was (and often is to many things): "Praise God." In other words-don't get stuck on self; and: "Desire to live higher," as one drug addict said to me.
  • False humility: don't debase yourself thru false, forced ways in egoic attempts to become humble. Accept compliments graciously from others and refer them to God.
  • Help the humble: some in our culture, believe it or not, are not Type-A American types, and so your acts of charity and humility towards these "little ones of Jesus" can help you and them: you don't always have to hob-knob with the rich and famous. Humble teachers are all around us-accept their wisdom and manifestations of Truth.
  • Enemies of humility: know your Enemies and avoid them, like "The Killer P's"=pride, possessions, privilege.
  • Practice selflessness: Try not to use the "I"-word so much, or "me" or "mine". One of the most powerful men in the US of A, Justice Clarence Thomas, often prays the Litany of Humility, which includes: "From the desire of being esteemed: deliver me O Jesus; from the desire of being wanted: Deliver me O Jesus; from the desire of being respected: Deliver me O Jesus; That others may be praised and I unnoticed: Jesus grant me the grace to desire it." Put the right spiritual carrot-practices in front of your nose. So many books and workshops proclaim and promote self-glory, assertiveness and habits of success: why not humility?
  • Surrender to win: Prayer: remove self/accept God. We try to grasp and enclose God with our little concepts. We need ideas-proper ones, even about God; but these ideas and thoughts are not God Himself. We need, let's admit it-deeper, meditative prayer, which is difficult-and humbling-esp. when we control and proudly manipulate so much else. So embrace darkness and silence in your prayer, as, really, none of our limited, earthly ideas or emotions can ever reach the Unlimited, Eternal Ethereal Lord-God. This is humbling yet freeing when we accept it. Remember the "Three R's of Prayer": Relax. Release. Receive.
  • Let's be transparent to the Trinity like the Blessed Virgin Mary: She was poor, virginal and seemingly powerless, and yet because of her beautiful transparency to the Trinity's Love and Light, she gave birth to the Lord Jesus. Imitate her virtues and recall: humility leads to beauty.
  • Strength and Humility go together: don't be fooled (by ego or Satan, who try to teach you that if you are humble you'll be a wimp. A priest who visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta was impressed by her: at once barking Marine-like command-instructions to her fellow sisters and, another time, dodging questions about her personality and human uniqueness, saying, in effect, I'm only a pencil in the hand of God. Humility and heroic strength--you can "do" both.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi