The Depths of God’s Love Through Humility
Blessed Giles of Assisi, in the thirteenth century, wrote, “No one can attain the knowledge of God but by humility. The way to mount high is to descend.” This helps express the profound truth of today’s readings. In Ezekiel’s view, only the humble can acknowledge fault and turn to God with repentance. In the Gospel from Matthew, those who view themselves humbly are able to recognize God’s presence in Jesus. And in his letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul’s stirring hymn tells the story of Jesus, who through his humility showed us the depths of God’s love. Jesus Christ is exalted as Lord precisely because of his humility and service to God. In our own parishes and faith communities, just like the Christian community of Philippi, we are called to follow Jesus’ way, and live with humility and in service to one another.
BY WHAT AUTHORITY?
Today’s Gospel describes the second half of a sharp exchange between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. They asked, “By what authority do you do these things?” Much of this dispute is about authority. How could Jesus claim to represent God’s purposes? This question continues to resonate today. Who speaks for God? Who doesn’t? How do we tell the difference?
Jesus’ response is, look at the evidence. Look at how, in response to John the Baptist and to Jesus, people were healed in body and in spirit. Look how people found new intimacy with God, and how they turned away from their sin. The authority of John and of Jesus rested not in some position within the religious institutions, but in the grace and healing power evident in John and in Jesus.
CHANGING YOUR MIND
The readings today make it clear that to be a follower of Jesus you have to be able to change your mind. More precisely, we must allow God to change us, to transform our minds. For most of us, this can be really hard. This is why the readings speak so much about humility. Humility opens up our capacity to be transformed. Humility allows us to challenge our own thinking and behavior, so as to avoid self-justification on one hand, and self-denigration on the other hand.
Humility can be cultivated in the practice of reflection. This might mean claiming some time to allow God into our busy days. This might mean time away, through a retreat or day of quiet, perhaps with the help of a spiritual guide or director. Humility can also be cultivated in actions of service. We learn Jesus’ humility through washing each other’s feet. We can place other’s interests ahead of our own, and relinquish our need to be in control. When we cultivate humility, we create space within us to allow God to take residence and transform us.
Philippians 2:1-11 [1-5]
Matthew 21 :28-32