“Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find mercy in the sight of God.” (Sirach 3:18)
During my third year in seminary, I was helping out in the library putting barcodes on all the books (that’s a lot of books). One afternoon, I reached for a book call “Love: A Fruit Always in Season.” It was a book of daily meditations by Mother Teresa that someone had compiled. I flipped to the daily meditation of that day and it totally hit the mark of where I was in my spiritual life at the age of 20 and what I needed to hear/read that day (I won’t get into what it said because that’s an entire different homily). So I stayed there for a good 5-10 minutes flipping through that book, reading her sayings, quotes and mini speeches, and in a pre-Amazon world, I drove the next chance I could to the nearest bookstore and bought the book. It’s been at my side ever since. Mother Teresa will be canonized next Sunday, and she is one of the most quoted (and misquoted) individuals of the 20th century. When I read today’s readings on humility, I immediately thought of her and her many beautiful words about this virtue that seems to escape us. Humility is seen by this world as a weakness instead of the powerful spiritual gift that God saw and that Mother Teresa and many of the saints embraced. Humility is the foundation of all love, for to love you have to humble yourself to be able to love the other. Humility requires putting God and the other first so that we love them with little regard for ourselves. Jesus extols the virtue of humility in the gospel when he tells us that those who humble themselves will be exalted. This is the way of God: to think of the other first so that we can start to love them.
So what did (soon to be Saint) Mother Teresa have to say about humility? Well, plenty: “If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.” The humble person is always even keel: doesn’t get too high and doesn’t get too low because this person knows that God always comes first and that God is at their side. Mother Teresa also delights in the humility of God: “In God I find two things admirable: His goodness and His humility. His love and His humility are striking. God is truly humble; He comes down and uses instruments as weak and imperfect as we are. He deigns to work through us. Is that not marvelous?” Here Mother is touching upon the beauty of the mystery of the Incarnation. Not only did God become man, but he uses us to accomplish his will, as his instruments or as his “little pencils” as Mother would say. This is what is marvelous: that God loves us so much that he wants us to be part of his great plan to re-create the world. As Mother would say, it starts with a smile, and in today’s readings we realize that it also starts off with embracing humility in order to begin to love. Once we realize that God and the other come first and the beauty that is humility, then the spiritual benefits that await us are simply eternal.
(Many of you asked me this morning where you could get the book that I referenced. I thought it was out of print but here it is: