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Humility

- Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

The word “humility” comes from the Latin word humus which means soil.  The word carries with it the reminder that we were made from the dust, the clay, the soil of the earth.  In fact, the Bible records that the name of the first human was Adam, taken from the Hebrew adama which also means soil.  Humility is, therefore, the virtue that reminds us of our common origin.  We were all created from the dust or soil of this earth.  Those who remember this will not try to make themselves into something they are not.  Humility is simply the ability to see ourselves for who we are.

Humble people remember the prominent Gospel theme of reversal; namely, the first will be last and the last will be first.  In other words, if we aspire to greatness in the reign of God, we will take the last place rather than the first.  We will not exalt ourselves over others.  We will not look down upon anyone as lesser than. 

The First Shall be last and the last shall be first.

The writings of St. Paul remind us that Jesus “humbled” himself to become a human being.  In other words, Jesus knew who he was but chose not to cling to his position.  Rather he “emptied” himself and came among us as one like us.  “Emptying” oneself is the foundation of Lenten penance and self denial.  When we are empty, we can be filled.  God can fill us with grace when we empty ourselves of all that we think is necessary.  Just as Jesus emptied himself, we fast from food and drink in order to empty ourselves.  Once we are stripped down to the bare essentials, then God can work wonders with us.

The Pharisees and the scribes of the Gospel are notorious examples of people who lacked humility.  They felt that because they observed every minute portion of the Law that they were better than others.  Jesus is constantly urging them to empty themselves of this kind of thinking, to remember that they were made from the soil of the earth just as every single man and woman in this world was made from the soil of this earth.

When we confront the reality of who we are in prayer and fasting, we arrive in the country called “humility.”  It is one of the destinations we seek in our Lenten journey.  

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