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Father Muench Says...

‘True humility frees us’

March 23, 2022

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

The Scripture readings at the Masses during Lent are like old friends. At the weekday Masses of Lent, they are the same each year. So, each day during Lent, we are drawn into a meditation, a meditation that challenged us last year and the very same readings at Mass as last year – and the years before.

Recently, I remembered this so well when I noticed the Gospel reading that was proclaimed at the daily Mass during the Second Week of Lent. The reading was from Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus is criticizing the scribes and Pharisees while teaching the people. I must admit that this reading is a cause for me, as a priest, to stop and consider my own life carefully.

Jesus says as he is teaching, “that the scribes and Pharisees have taken their place on the chair of Moses. Therefore, the people should do and observe all things what so-ever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice… All their works are performed to be seen.” As you can see, these words of Jesus present a real challenge for me as a priest, for I preach in the name of the Lord. My life must demonstrate my faith and understanding of the message of the Lord.

This same Gospel reading goes on to teach us to realize that as followers of Jesus, Our Savior, we are called to become real disciples of the Lord by living truly humble lives as our Lord did. Jesus teaches this, “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself with be exalted.”

So, today, lets us talk about humility. Too often, many think of humility wrongly as not feeling great about ourselves. True humility is not feeling bad about yourself or having a low opinion of yourself or even thinking of yourself as inferior to all others.

True humility frees us from preoccupation with ourselves. Humility is the truth in understanding ourselves – truth in action. Humility is viewing ourselves honestly, seeing ourselves as God sees us. There are times when I say the perfect thing. There are times when I do the right thing. But I know only too well that their times when I am a sinner, there are times when I hurt others, there are times when I need the Lord to guide me to change so much in my life, and there are so many times when I need to find forgiveness, times when I must repent, times when I must change. At such times I must learn to be humble just as Jesus taught and as Jesus lived.

Humility helps us to be teachable so we can acquire true knowledge, wisdom, and an honest view of the reality of just who we are. I remember so well being shown what a gift it is to be teachable, to be a student who is open and receptive, sympathetic and willing to learn and understand. This can be difficult. We refuse to be humble, not ready to truly recognize what kind of follower of Jesus that we are, when we refuse to see ourselves honestly. When we understand the message of the Savior, we are ready to be transformed, ready to make ourselves a disciple – making ourselves ready to make our world all that is should and can be. Humility frees us to love and serve others willingly and selflessly for their own sake rather than for mine.

The model of humility is our Lord, Jesus. When we are close to the Lord, Jesus gives us his heart – the heart of a servant who seeks the good of others and put their interest first in his care and concern. May Jesus set me free from the tyranny of selfish pride and teach me to be humble and to love others generously.

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