Posts Tagged ‘Humility’

The Crown of Righteousness!

Sunday, October 27th, 2019

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sir 35: 12-14, 16-18; 2 Tim 4: 6-8, 16-18; Lk 18: 9-14

Deacon Larry Brockman

Righteousness!  It is one of those things we hear about often but fail to understand fully.  Just what does it mean to be righteous?  

The Hebrew roots of the word righteousness relate to the justice that God gives those people who conform to his covenant with Him.  So, the Jews of Jesus time would have understood that the righteous are those who deserve justice because they conform to the law.   

In the New Testament, Paul talks often about righteousness.  There, the word means those who live in conformity to God’s will.  They are “right” with God.  There is a subtle difference, and that is emphasized in our readings today.  

 First of all, righteousness calls for personal humility.  I am talking about true humility.  A truly humble person knows who they are.  That is what we hear from St. Paul this morning.  We hear about who he really was.  Paul was dedicated to the conversion of the Gentiles.  He was knocked off his horse, blinded by God, and told to change his ways.  He was told not to persecute the believers of Jesus Christ, but rather, to preach Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.  Paul, who was an important Rabbi in the Pharisaic Jewish Movement, dropped everything and dedicated the rest of his life to preaching Christ.  Paul knew who he was, a servant of Christ, called to do his bidding as a travelling preacher.  In today’s second reading, we find him in chains in a Roman prison at the end of his life. 

While it may seem that Paul is anything but humble about his righteousness, these circumstances and the life of Paul shed a different light.  Paul is simply recognizing who he was.  Paul knew that age and his commitment to the Lord had taken its toll.  He sensed that life in this world was almost over for him.  Paul was not comparing himself to others; just recognizing who he really was called to be.   

Then, in the Gospel we hear about a second aspect of true humility.  The parable that Jesus tells makes it very clear that we need to concentrate on our own faults rather than compare ourselves to others.  It may actually have been true that the Pharisee kept the law literally.  He may not have sinned the way he attacks others in his statement.  He probably didn’t commit adultery; he probably wasn’t dishonest; and he probably wasn’t greedy.  But that isn’t what would make him righteous.  This would have shocked the crowd; because the essence of Judaism at the time was literal compliance with the law.  

What would make him righteous is whether he responded to God’s calls to him.  Did this man hear that little voice inside his heart that prompted him in every day life?  Did he find out who God really wanted him to be, and then follow that plan?  From Jesus’ description, this man was focused on the law, and judged what others did rather than what he was called to do.  He wasn’t motivated to dig deep down in his heart and recognize his failings like the Tax Collector was.   

Sirach talks this morning about God and Old Testament Justice.  His opening statement is very important.  He says: “God knows no favorites”.  It just simply has to be that way with God.  God created each person out of love.  God loves each and every one of the people he creates the same.  Just like we love our children equally.  God has designed each of us the way he intended for us to be.  Unfortunately, not all of God’s children learn to know and serve God; just like not all of our children respond to the best efforts of their parents.   

Our relationship with God is ultimately one on one; it is not relative to others.  Only God is aware of all of the gifts and incumbrances that each person He created is dealing with.  God will justify each of us on the basis of the gifts he gave us.  God’s judgment is based on the one on one relationship we have with Him.  And in your relationship with God, He only cares about how you are responding to him, not how you are doing relative to others.  That certainly comes across in the parable in the Gospel.   

Not only that, but God is only interested in what happens going forward.  His mercy is unlimited; He forgives us for everything and anything as long as we confess, believe in him, and vow to repent. 

The good news is that all of us are called to righteousness with God.  From the beginning God sent us all out into the world to “be fruitful and multiply”.  That’s what most of us were called to do.  To go out into the world, raise our own in the image and likeness of God, and be fruitful.  That means providing for our families and using the talents and gifts God gave us.   

And at any time during our life, we can reconcile ourselves with God.  All of us are called to the personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  All of us are called to be like the Tax Collector.  The Tax Collector was one of the most hated persons in first century Jewish society. a person thought to be complicit with the Romans, inherently dishonest, greedy, and far from the law.  All of us are sinners like the Tax Collector in our own way.  But if we truly know who we are and were called to be, we recognize the things we have done wrong and are willing to change going forward, then all of us can become righteous with God.

At the end of life, if we have that personal relationship with Christ, and we maintain our true humility.  then just like Paul, all of us can expect the crown of righteousness. 

Forgiveness Out of Love

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Thursday of 11th Week in Ordinary Time

2 Cor 11: 1-11; Mt 6: 7-15

Dc. Larry Brockman


Forgiveness!  This morning, Jesus puts unmistakable emphasis on Forgiveness.  First he teaches us how to pray:  Keep it simple- say what you mean; and don’t babble.  Give praise and Glory to God; and recognize that God’s will is best for us.  That is followed by the forgiveness part:  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.  And finally, “deliver us from evil”.   

But notice that after the prayer, Jesus is very explicit that we will not be forgiven unless we forgive. Wow!  And that is the hard part, isn’t it, at least speaking for myself.  Yes, it is hard for me to forgive people who continually hurt me.  And it seems as if there are some people out there who are determined, even dedicated, to be contrary over and over again.  And no matter how many times I tell myself to forgive them, something will come up again, and yet again.  I saw a movie yesterday that illustrates what I mean.  There was a person who played the violin each night just because he knew it irritated his neighbor.  When the neighbor died; this man stopped playing the violin!  In fact, he became depressed because he had derived such pleasure from tormenting his neighbor,  that he didn’t know what to do with himself when the neighbor was gone.     

I bet that all of you out there have this kind of problem with someone.  As a parent, we hear our kids complain about their brothers and sisters teasing them or hitting them or something;  And nagging parents or spouses or siblings fit this bill; so do many bosses or clients or teachers.  And then there are the politicians!     

But you know, we are often blind to our own weaknesses, and so, it is fair to say that we are all probably a thorn of this kind in someone else’s side too- all of course, except me!  I never do anything to irritate anyone else!    And that brings me to Jesus’ main point- humility.  Forgiveness and humility go hand in hand.  All of us need to forgive everything everybody else does to us no matter how often it is done or how sinister it is, because all of us are sinners and are guilty of the same thing.  When, in all humility, we recognize the fact of our sinfulness, even though we may be blind to the depth and details of that sinfulness, then we can make a true confession and expect to be forgiven by God.  But, that humility demands that we forgive others as we would hope to be forgiven, otherwise,we are not being honest in our own relationship with God.   

In our first reading, Paul demonstrates the kind of forgiveness I have been talking about.  Paul has put himself out for the Corinthians.  And yet, they have challenged his authority; they have listened to others preach behind his back.  And yet Paul forgives them- he writes them and asks for a return to harmony.  At the end of that reading, Paul says something very profound.  He tells us why we must forgive others.  We need to forgive for the same reason that Jesus forgives- out of Love. 

True Humility

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Zeph 2: 3; 3: 12-13; 1 Cor 1: 26-; Mt 5: 1-12a

Dc. Larry Brockman


When St. Augustine was asked to name the three most important virtues, he gave an interesting answer:   First, he said, humility; second, humility; third, humility.  Humility is God’s favorite thing; he longs to find it in us.  But just what is humility.   

There are all kinds of interesting stories about truly humble people.  Here is just one:  It seems there was a cocky, successful, young French businessman traveling by train to Paris, many years ago.  He was sharing a compartment with on old man who looked like a peasant – simple clothes, short hair, and a weather-beaten face.  The up-and-coming businessman noticed the rosary gripped in the old man’s hands, and the devotion and concentration expressed on his face.  The young man thought he would have some fun, so he said, “I see that you still believe in that medieval bunk about praying your beads.   Do you also believe in all the other myths the priests try to teach us?”  “Yes, indeed”, the old man answered, “Don’t you?”  “Me? Do I believe in all that ridiculous superstition”?   The young man laughed out loud; then he said:   “I gave that up in college.  And if you want to be smart, you should throw those beads out the window and start studying some real, scientific truth.”  The old man answered,   “I don’t understand what you mean. Maybe you could help me”.  The young whippersnapper felt he had been a little harsh, so he answered,   “Well, I could send you some articles, if you like.  Do you know how to read”?  “More or less”, the old man answered.  “Good – so where should I send the material?”  The old man fumbled in his coat pocket and then handed over a card.  It bore a simple inscription:   Louis Pasteur – Paris Institute for Scientific Research.   

Clearly Louis Pasteur’s humility didn’t hinder his greatness.  So, humility is not shying away from and denying ones talents.   Rather what true humility is can be understood by discovering the unifying idea that undergirds the eight Beatitudes, which we just heard, and which summarize Jesus’ teaching about how to live.   Looking carefully, we see a common denominator: The person who is blessed is the person who is not thinking about himself all the time. The poor in spirit and those who suffer persecution  They gracefully realize that they are not the center of the universe – God is.  The clean of heart realize that other people don’t exist just for the sake of their pleasure.  The peacemaker is concerned about the needs and problems of others.  The merciful is concerned about the suffering of others.  The mournful is concerned about the damage his sin does to the Church, the world, and other people.  The meek care more about getting things done than getting credit for doing things.  Those who hunger for righteousness realize that their life has a higher purpose, that it’s part of a bigger story.  So, underlying all the Beatitudes is this fundamental attitude that puts God and others ahead of self.  It looks out at the world instead of staring in, fixated on self.   

Now if the essence of humility is thinking more about God and others than about oneself,   Growing in humility means training ourselves to do just that, and it is a life-long project.  Prayer is essential here, by turning our attention towards God.  Reading the Bible is essential as well, because it presents us with Christ’s perfect example of humility.  But I want to talk about one other way to express our humility:  Praying for the souls in Purgatory.  Something all of us need to realize is that very, very, few people die so full of the Love of Christ that they are ready to see the face of God.  Rather, most of us die without having been completely purified from our self-centered habits and desires, no matter how old we have gotten.  If we die in friendship with Christ, we will enter eternal life with him in heaven.   But we can’t make that entry until the last remnants of self-centeredness have been purified.  Purgatory is the name the Church gives to that process of purification.  The Church has also taught us that we can pray for the souls in Purgatory, and we can even help speed up their purification.   We can help the souls in Purgatory, relieving their suffering and speeding up their entry into heaven, in many ways.  Simply lifting our hearts to God, and offering our daily sufferings up for the souls in purgatory will help them, if we desire it.  Certain prayers, like an act of faith, the Rosary, or the Creed, can be offered up in this way as well.  Teaching someone about Christ or Christian doctrine, doing an act of kindness with a spirit of faith, or giving up a small pleasure (like sugar in our coffee, or salt on our French Fries), are all actions that we can offer up for someone else.  So, like a good mother, the Church has made it easy for us to help our brothers and sisters in Purgatory.  And whenever we do, we are opening our hearts to God and to others, thereby exercising the pivotal virtue of humility, the key to holiness and happiness.   

This week, let’s give God the pleasure of doing our part to grow in his favorite thing, humility.[1]

[1] Homily material taken extensively from e-priest notes for January 30th, 2011