This is week two of a six week series entitled “be with me.” This is the wish of Jesus for all of us and he specifically tells one of the men crucified alongside him that he will be with Jesus in paradise, that very day. What does it take to be with Jesus, particularly before the journey to paradise and being with Jesus after the journey to paradise? We’ll use the weekly readings to pull out a theme that supports the overall idea that we can be with him.
It is the goal of Jesus disciples to be with Jesus. The apostles were with Jesus for three years and no doubt loved it all. Jesus is a very irresistible person, we read how crowds were always around him, following him wherever he was going. But even more than the irresistible factor Jesus is life giving. When Jesus asked the question do the disciples want to leave, “Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) When there is a chance you can be with the Holy one of God, the one who has the words of eternal life, we should make every opportunity to be with Him. This series will look at ways to be with Jesus.
Recall last week
Last week the readings challenged us to pray always. We recognized in the three readings an aspect of prayer. Moses prays and Israel defeats its enemy. Paul puts scripture at the heart of teaching, reprimanding, persuading, and it is at the heart of prayer. Jesus tells us to pray always and never grow weary. Jesus’ example for prayer was to go off by himself to pray. Only Jesus was never by himself when he want off to pray, he was with the Father. It is prayer that allows us to enter into presence with God, it is the first, very important step to be with him.Jesus was never by himself when he want off to pray, he was with the Father. It is prayer that allows us to enter into presence with God, it is the first, very important step to be with him. Click To Tweet
The readings this week have us considering humility. The opening reading from Sirach list those people who might be overlooked as the people God is most attending to in their need. Paul tells us how he is worked very hard and poured himself out for the gospel and although he seems to be speaking somewhat arrogantly we see the humility he intends, how he always points to God as the one accomplishing all through him. Finally in the gospel we see an arrogant man and a humble man at prayer, Jesus telling us it is the man who prays with humility, asking for mercy that will be exalted by God.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time; Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; Psalms 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14. The readings guide us to focus on having an attitude of humility to be with him, the divine always seek out those who know they can live better with the presence of God leading them.
The first reading from Sirach begins by indicating God of justice knows no favorites, but then list those to whom God is unduly partial toward. God seeks out the weak, oppressed, the orphan, the widow, those who serve God, the prayer of the lowly reaches God and does not rest until it reaches it goal, or return until God responds. These verses come from a section of the writing of Sirach where he is teaching about worship. The main idea he expresses is in order for worship to be pleasing to God it cannot be mere liturgical ritual, true adoration is backed up by righteous living; following Gods commandments, doing good works and giving alms, and refraining from evil and avoiding injustice. Sirach is laying the foundation about righteous living and honoring God. The passage from the readings speaks about God’s attitude, and those of the people who have recourse to God. We see God is a God who cares for those who are needy and call on God for help. While it isn’t necessarily always the case, we often see the low and needy are usually people of humility. They are people of poor material resources and therefore don’t boast of their worldly good; rather they boast of their love for God and speak of their dependence on God. God has created a world with an abundance that can serve all our needs, yet we see people left needing and God reaching out to care for them. God wants all of us to go to him in humility, to recognize our dependence on God and our need for his help. So as the opening of the reading asserts God has no favorites, yet we learn humble prayer and those who approach God in humility have their prayers heard and granted.God has no favorites, yet we learn humble prayer and those who approach God in humility have their prayers heard and granted. Click To Tweet
In the second reading Paul is writing to his disciple Timothy and expressing he feels he is very near the end of his life. Paul lists his accomplishments, he feels he is finished the race well and that there is a crown of righteousness that awaits him, as he looks forward to the judgement by the just judge. He believes when he was in this position before, God rescued him but he doesn’t expect that to be the case this time. While he is boasting of all that he accomplished he says it is the Lord that gave him strength. Paul is confident in his work and what has been accomplished, he knows it is through the Lord that he has achieved any success. God has been beside him on the journey helping him in all the work and he is thankful. He also knows that God’s rescue this time will likely bring him to God’s heavenly Kingdom. Paul’s humility is obvious but we also see his confidence in knowing he has done what he could toward his mission, always focused on the work. Paul’s dedication to prayer and dependence on God is what is at the core of his belief. While we may think Paul has a big ego at times, we see that it is his confidence in God that gives him the ability to succeed. His confidence in God is also the reason he believes he will be judged justly. It is Paul’s humility that draws God to him and his dedication to doing the will of God. As we read in the reading from Sirach, God again hears the prayers of the humble and grants Paul what he needs.
In the gospel from Luke Jesus is telling his disciples a parable about two people praying in the temple. A Pharisee taking his position in the front, who thanks God that he is not like everyone else, particularly the tax collector. He boasts of all he does to prove himself righteous and law abiding. The other person in the parable is a tax collector who knows he is a sinner and completely dependent on God for mercy and just judgement and simply says, “O God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Jesus declares it is the tax collector who is justified, not the Pharisee who has justified himself. The parable convicts the Pharisee who proudly claims he is obeying all the rules and regulations of the law, but he is ignoring the Mosaic precept of mercy and compassion. He was proud and self-righteous. Tax collectors were hated by the people of Israel because they collected taxes for the invading power, in this case the Romans and usually became rich by cheating the people and charging them extra taxes that they themselves kept. They were considered traitors and likely were unclean and sinful because of their relationship with the foreigners. So while the parable shows both men as sinners, it was the tax collector who realized it and asked for mercy. Jesus says when we humble ourselves we will be exalted by God. It is another example of how the humble, those who know their humility will get the attention of God.
These are all examples where God values the prayer and dedication of any humble and contrite person. We are being taught to be humble and pray persistently, with perseverance. We are speaking of prayer but it is not the main focus of the readings, we are called to pray with humility. There is a danger in pride, putting ourselves first, we are saying to God we don’t need you, we can do it on our own. It is necessary to have humility and then we will receive the grace of God, including grace to enter into fruitful prayer and receive salvation.When we have humility God seeks us out, it is the case that God wants us to be with us because we realize we are dependent on God. Click To Tweet
When we have humility God seeks us out, it is the case that God wants us to be with us because we realize we are dependent on God. To be with God includes those times in prayer when God comes to us and gives us grace granting us whatever we need. We are also with God in the judgement of the righteous and taken to the heavenly Kingdom, as Paul believes is his destiny after a life of humble service.
Be with me – humility
To be with him we must be like him. As we read in the first reading God has an attitude of humility. God puts others first, seeks out and helps those who approach him with humility and an attitude putting others first. When we are humble our prayer goes up to God and does not come back unrewarded.
We recognize with humility a certain attitude of confidence, a person of humility has confidence. Humble people know their life depends on God but they also know they have a certain value thanks to God. A humble person might say I am completely unworthy but because of God my worth is so much, I am invaluable. God thinks we are all invaluable, so if we trust God, we trust God’s value in us. To be humble doesn’t mean lacking confidence, but rather having confidence in God and doing what needs to be done for God. We see this in Paul, his humility is evident but he still boasts about what he is able to accomplish through God.We recognize with humility a certain attitude of confidence, a person of humility has confidence. Humble people know their life depends on God but they also know they have a certain value thanks to God. Click To Tweet
People with humility are not looking for recognition, in fact they are usually people who like to see success be spread over many. There are those who want to look humble, and may act in a way where they are trying to show themselves meek, but in fact they are living a false humility. They speak as though they did nothing, but want everyone to know they were involved and whatever success is attained couldn’t have been done without them. The language they use pretends to be generous but is really self-centered. We see this in the “prayer” of the Pharisee, he was boasting about his following the law, how he was putting God first, but ultimately he was boasting about his own good.
True humility attracts others. A leader is one who attracts others by being in charge, taking control and leading a job to success. We all want to follow an attractive leader. There is a type of leader busy taking credit and being bossy. This kind of leader is not attractive for others to follow. A leader with humility tries to involve all members of the team, they see the team’s success when all have offered assistance and contributed to the success. A true leader in not looking for credit but for success, which includes everyone. We see this kind of leadership in Jesus. He constantly attracted others who admired his type of leadership. He knew how to grow others, who were leaders who put others first and showed more care about the person than any kind of win. Jesus rarely talks about himself, he is always talking about God. The mission takes priority, not the glory of any individual. This kind of humility is very attractive. We know this because we read over and over again how Jesus attracted great crowds, he was irresistible and lived a life pattern that others wanted to mimic.
People with humility often have a great deal of confidence, they are not seeking to be recognized as someone who is humble, in fact they are usually not looking to be recognized at all. Let all glory God to good would be the motto of the person of humility.People with humility often have a great deal of confidence, they are not seeking to be recognized as someone who is humble, in fact they are usually not looking to be recognized at all. Click To Tweet
Mother Teresa is someone who is noted as having a great humility. Although in order for her to be successful she had to be able to communicate the message of her mission, take on powerful people and organizations to effect change and garner donations and she had to be willing to stand in front of a room full of people and speak about her work, such as she did when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1979. Her speech pointed to God and in fact she accepted the award is his name. She also spoke about the people she served. As a person of humility she brought attention to God and to the poor, but not herself.
It was not an accident that she was a person of humility. She in fact worked very hard at being humble. She wanted humility and she wanted it for all those in her care in the Missionaries of Charity. She develop a humility list and she shared it with all her sisters so they could cultivate their own humility. Her list includes:
- Speak as little as possible about yourself.
- Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
- Avoid curiosity (here she is speaking about wanting to know things of no concern of ours.)
- Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
- Accept small irritations with good humor.
- Do not dwell on the faults of others.
- Accept censures even if unmerited.
- Give in to the will of others.
- Accept insults and injuries.
- Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
- Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
- Do not seek to be admired and loved.
- Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
- Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
- Choose always the more difficult task.
Humility does not lack power, it is the power of God at work through us. We see this in our three examples, Paul, Mother Teresa and Jesus, all powerful and accomplished people but we cannot deny they were all people of humility. The power of humility is its attractiveness, when others are in contact with those who are humble they are inspired. People who prefer personal power over humility will always have a breakdown and tend to blame others for the failure. Those with humility take the blame and lift up others.The power of humility is its attractiveness, when others are in contact with those who are humble they are inspired. Click To Tweet
It is this attractiveness that allows us to be with him. We could not be truly humble without God in us. You can look at the humility list and see it is a very difficult list of individual behaviors that cannot be accomplished without the power of God. God has all the power in the world. God has shared his power with others so they could succeed for him, Paul, Mother Teresa and Jesus are three examples where God has shared power. But God only shares his power with those he knows can handle it. The one who wants power to glorify themselves cannot handle God’s power. God’s power is that we may glorify God. So if we want to be with God, now and eternally, we must be humble. We would do well to follow Mother Teresa’s humility list to train ourselves to become humble.
Be with him
Our message is to be with him, to be with God, to be with Jesus. We read God tends to turn his ear from the prayers of the wicked or self-righteous. But those who do the will of God, the humble, God listens to and hears. If we want to be with God we have to make ourselves someone that God wants to be with. Hopefully we recognize this means to be a person of humility. God likes humility because he can trust it. So to be with him we must make ourselves humble, and always point to God for all glory and power. With him we can do anything, but we must know as Paul says all strength comes from God. We should desire humility because we know being with him is more important than anything we can say or do.We should desire humility because we know being with him is more important than anything we can say or do. Click To Tweet