Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless you all!
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10; 1Thes 2:7b-9,13; Matt 23:1-12
November 4/5, 2023
Both our first reading and Gospel today are all about humility and the dangers of pride. We hear a lot about pride and humility from the pulpit, don’t we, and we read a lot about it in the books, pamphlets, and devotions from the Church. Yet, there still is a lot of pride, or lack of humility, in our world and within the Church. Pride is something we all dislike in another person but seem to dismiss in ourselves and humility something we esteem in others, but find difficult in our own lives. I think Jesus knew this tendency, and so he talked about it a lot in the Gospels. If humility is so important, and pride so dangerous if we wish to get to heaven, then how do we go about developing the one and getting rid of the other?
Perhaps it is important to start here. The big saints in the Church have consistently said that the remedy for pride comes from two things: Knowing yourself really well, especially your limits, the ways you have been hurt in life, and your sins; Knowing God really well, his love and his mercy.
Knowing both is necessary. Knowing only one without the other is disastrous.
What is humility? The saints say that humility is knowing the difference between us and God. So, who are you and who is God?
Do you remember what Pope Francis said right after he was elected pope, when someone asked him, “Who are you?” He said (I am paraphrasing a little), “I am a sinner in need of God’s mercy.” Then he went on and gave us the Year of Mercy, time to get to know God as merciful.
What did our Blessed Mother say? “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you will.” Yes, even Mary, immaculate though she is, was humble before God, knowing herself well, and she knew God too, the God who was to show mercy to the whole world in her Son.
Yes, to know ourselves is to realize how, left to ourselves, we are so far from the ideal, from the goal, from being the person we were created to be. (O, the depths to which we have fallen and the heights to which we are called in Christ Jesus, as one of my deacon friends reminded me.) Jesus spoke of this in the Gospels. We are pretty much helpless if we see only our failures, weaknesses, hurts and injuries and if we rely only on our own resources and strength to try to overcome them. The idea that I can get to heaven on my own without the help of God and the Church leads us away from humility and into pride. It was the sin of Adam and Eve, and the sin of the fallen angels. Knowing ourselves is admitting we are sinners and that we are not God, but we really and truly need him.
Knowing God is to know his mercy, as Pope Francis said. If you want to know God, just go and ask him for mercy. Knowing God means knowing that he loves us for who we are then raises us up out of ourselves and our pride through his mercy. To know God is to know you have been redeemed, your wounds and sins have been purchased at a great price, and your have been lifted out of it all and into God. To know God is to know how God sees us, that we are his sons and daughters.
We have to know both. Knowing only one is trouble. If we know only our brokenness and sinfulness it will lead to despair, not humility. It happened to Judas. On the other hand, just praying a lot, doing a lot of religious things, learning a lot about God and ignore our brokenness, our sins, our limitations, that will lead to the spiritual pride and presumption that Jesus preaches against in today’s Gospel. Too many of us presume God’s mercy but deny the seriousness of our need for it, and we will become full of pride.
Yes, God is all merciful. No sin is too big for him to forgive. If we don’t know our need for that mercy, we shut it out. We become prideful. On the other hand, if we see only our sins, our failures, our wounds in life and don’t know how much God loves us, we will despair.
So, when we know ourselves well and we know God well, then we are humble, like Jesus so often tells us we must become. We become like Mary Magdalene, like Peter, like Paul, like the Saints Bernard, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and so many more.
Yes, God wants you to become a saint. The more you know God and yourself, the closer you are.
So, who are you? Who is God?
What is your answer? How do you respond?