A Good Word by Fr. Greg Jakubowicz, OFM 10.23.2022
Our need for humility is the focus of this Sunday’s Gospel from Luke that shares the parable of the self-absorbed Pharisee and the self-aware tax collector.
The Pharisee believed he was better than everyone because of what he had done. He had followed the religious law and he was prideful because of it. He could think only of himself.
The tax collector, on the other hand, was sorry for what he had done. He knew he had been sinful. More importantly, despite his sinfulness he believed in a God of love and so in his prayer he asked God for mercy.
Jesus contrasts the two approaches – one of the two people praying was considered “faithful” by the powers-that-be, but in reality, because of his self-centeredness he was not in right relationship with God. The other person praying, in contrast, was considered “unfaithful” by the powers-that-be, but his authentic honesty about himself justifies him before God.
As a Franciscan Friar, I am reminded of what St. Francis of Assisi once said – “what a man is before God, that he is and nothing else.” St. Francis’ mantra was – “My God and My All.” St. Francis knew that all the good that he had in his life came from the love of God.
Like the tax collector, St. Francis said the only thing he could claim as his own was his sinfulness.
It was because of the gift of God's love for him that St. Francis understood the source of such gifted blessings in his life. In fact, life itself is a gift from God. Knowing and believing this humbled St. Francis – it changed the way he went about in the world and how he served others - and ultimately, it put him in right relationship with God.
Thomas Merton, the famous mystic monk, wrote in his book, “The New Man” that “humility is absolutely necessary if one is to avoid acting like a baby all one’s life. To grow up, in fact, means to become humble, to throw away the illusion that I am the center of everything and that other people exist to provide me with comfort and pleasure.”
Are you and I humble like the tax collector, or are we self-centered like the Pharisee - acting like a baby as Thomas Merton puts it?
To be humble is to be thoroughly honest with oneself and who we are in relationship to God.
Humility is the realization that all we are and all that we will be begins with the very life breathed into our souls by our good and loving God. And everything we have continues through the constant love of God for us.
You and I have done nothing to deserve this blessing from God – it is just that God’s nature is unconditional love. It should lead us to give the glory to God always.
If you and I understand this not only in our minds but feel and embrace it in our hearts and soul, then – as Jesus promises – us sinners will be justified, and we will be exalted as saints.
So let us humbly give thanks to God for God’s love for us simply by returning that love and care to one another, especially those who are on the margins - by being aware of, and accepting one another, as God has accepted you and me.
As always, if there is anything we can do for you at UB Catholic campus ministry, please let me know. We are here for you.
May God bless you with Peace and All Good.