Homily on the readings for August 29, XXII Sunday in Ordinary Time, year C
Humility is God’s favorite virtue. That may sound like an overstatement – after all, there are many very important virtues – but I think we can make a good case in its favor.
For starters, two of our readings today exhort us to humility. The reading from Sirach urges us not to overestimate our own wisdom, and not to be condescending in our dealings with others, regardless of our status, wealth or talents. Then, Christ in the Gospel encourages us not to seek honors or rewards from other people. On the contrary, He tells us to offer good things to others who really cannot give us recompense, while intentionally keeping a low profile. In this way we are not judging our own merits or acting out of vanity. Our reward will come from God who knows better what we deserve.
This certainly shows that God likes humility, and we’ve been given similar messages in other recent readings at Mass, but that does not yet place it above other virtues. For that, we can turn to other passages of the Gospels. For instance, listen to the words that Mary speaks in the Magnificat, her song of praise for being chosen to be the Mother of God: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon the humility of his handmaid.” She doesn’t say, “he has looked upon my patience” or “silence” or “charity” or “purity”. She had all of those virtues and they were important, but they were a result of her humility.
I think the definitive argument comes from the words of Christ: “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart”. Among all of his virtues, this is the one that God himself picks specifically for us to imitate. And truly God shows humility in dealing with us, especially in the New Testament. This is evident from the psalm and second reading: God helps the helpless and the poor, and He lowers Himself to make Himself visible and approachable in Christ Jesus. God, who is perfect, who knows all things and can do all things and is entirely self-sufficient and righteous, is patient and kind to us, his sinful creatures, and even becomes one of us to save us.
How could we ignore the divine invitation to be humble like He is? How could we rank ourselves above others when only God knows the truth of our hearts and our personal histories? How can we fix a price and expected reward for our charitable works when that judgment belongs to God alone? And if we are truly humble, how can we intentionally sin, going against the will of our Creator?
Humility is truly the queen of all virtues. May the Lord help each and every one of us to be more humble of heart each day, trusting that God will provide for us abundantly and repay us generously “at the resurrection of the righteous.”