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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Humility - Saint Therese of Lisieux

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We are Christians.  We believe that Jesus died for us and rose from the dead to bring us with Him into the eternal life of heaven.  We profess that Jesus is alive in heaven, and in His Church on earth.  We profess that He is so closely united to us that we call the Church His Body – the Body of Christ – as He told saint Paul.  We as Catholics furthermore proclaim that He was not kidding around when He said “this is My Body... this is my Blood.”  Jesus is here, he is alive, and He gives Himself to us in the Eucharist.  
Why?  So that we can become like Him.  And what is the most important way to become like Jesus?
Do we need to be miracle workers?  No.  Do we need to go turning over tables and calling out the Pharisees?  Not necessarily.  Do we need to love?  Definitely.  But what is the first step?  The first step is humility.  What we hear in the Gospel and the first reading today is the first step of the Christian life.
Humility is not beating ourselves up and denying that we can and should strive for greatness.  Rather, humility is a gut-check, a reality-check, a down-to-earth quality of being in-touch with the way things are.  And the way things are is this: God is God, and I am a creature.  I do not exist on my own.  I did not  bring myself into this world, nor can I keep myself here.  Furthermore, I cannot fulfill myself – I need others, especially God, in order to be happy.  I cannot control this world, I cannot even control myself at times, and (speaking for myself) there are some things I will never be able to control, like my hair.
That is humility.  Not bad hair, but that real acknowledgment of “c'est la vie” “such is life” and accepting the facts for the facts.  This does not mean we do not hope for a better world, a just society, personal holiness, or any other good dream we should shoot for.  But it does mean admitting where we are at this point.
We can become saints.  We should become saints.  We, God willing, will be saints one day.  Are you saints yet?  No.  That's humility.
And that is where true power comes from.  Yes, humility is the source of strength.  Since we all are weak, unable to conquer ourselves or even to exist apart from God's grace, humility is the first step toward holiness.  Saint Therese of Lisieux is a great example of this.  I'm reading a book about her called “33 Days to Merciful Love,” and I am finding the little two-page sections each day to be very powerful.  She wrote: “I do not grieve in seeing that I am weakness itself. On the contrary, it is in this I glory; and I expect each day to discover new imperfections; and I acknowledge that these lights concerning my nothingness do me more good than the lights concerning the Faith.”
How many of you see weakness as a gift?  Perhaps we need to start, because this little saint has done more good on earth that many “high and mighty” lives combined.
Therese saw weakness (what she often called being “little”) as a gift, saying: “What pleases Jesus in my little soul is to see me love my littleness.”
If we cannot love our own littleness before God, who chose to make us with the limitations that we have, then we too need to grow in humility.
Finally, she tells us: “It is my weakness that makes all my strength. Jesus did everything in me. I did nothing but remain little and weak.”
If we want to do great things, we need look no further than this saint and the Blessed Mother Mary, who was the first person in the Gospel to show us that in order to do great good for God and for the world, we need not boast of ourselves and puff ourselves up, but on the contrary we should become little and be an instrument for God to work in us.  Mother Teresa, who will be named a saint in just a few weeks, said the same in her own way: “God did not ask me to be successful.  He asked me to be faithful.”
I have printed off a handout with two prayers for humility.  You can find them in your pews and in the back of church.  Please use these prayers as a help toward growing in that first step in the spiritual life, and that greatest of all gifts: the gift of our littleness and humbly receiving God's Mercy.

Litany of Humility
by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed...
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I...
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should…
O Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, make my heart like yours!


St. Therese's "Prayer to obtain humility" (Prayer 20) written July 16, 1897.
O Jesus! when you were a Pilgrim on earth, you said: "Learn of Me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls." O Mighty Monarch of Heaven, yes, my soul finds rest in seeing you, clothed in the form and nature of a slave, humbling yourself to wash the feet of your apostles. I recall your words that teach me how to practice humility: "I have given you an example so that you may do what I have done. The disciple is not greater than the Master.... If you understand this, happy are you if you put them into practice." Lord, I do understand these words that came from your gentle and humble Heart and I want to practice them with the help of your grace. want truly to humble myself and to submit my will to that of my sisters. I do not wish to contradict them nor seek to see whether or not they have the right to command me. O my Beloved, no one had this right over you and yet you obeyed not only the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph but even your executioners. Now in the Sacred Host I see you at the height of your annihilations. How humble you are, O divine King of Glory, to subject yourself to all your priests without making any distinction between those who love you and those who are, alas! lukewarm or cold in your service... At their word you come down from heaven. Whether they advance or delay the hour of the Holy Sacrifice, you are always ready O my Beloved, how gentle and humble of heart You seem under the veil of the white Host! To teach me humility you cannot humble yourself further. Therefore, to respond to your love, I desire that my sisters always put me in the lowest place and I want to convince myself that this place is indeed mine.

I beg you, my Divine Jesus, to send me a humiliation whenever I try to set myself above others. I know, o my God, that you humble the proud soul but to the one who humbles herself you give an eternity of glory. So I want to put myself in the last rank and to share your humiliations so as "to have a share with you" in the kingdom of Heaven. But, you know my weakness, Lord. Every morning I make a resolution to practice humility and in the evening I recognize that I have committed again many faults of pride. At this I am tempted to become discouraged but I know that discouragement is also pride. Therefore, O my God, I want to base my hope in You alone. Since you can do everything, deign to bring to birth in my soul the virtue I desire. To obtain this grace of your infinite mercy I will very often repeat: "O Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, make my heart like yours!"

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