Lent began yesterday, Ash Wednesday, February 18. Lent is a time of intense humility. Even a casual reading of Scripture should inform each of us how important this virtue is in for our salvation.
Consider the liturgy for the Ash Wednesday Mass. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us of the right and wrong reasons for performing righteous deeds. He says to perform them not to impress others or that we might win the praise of others. In colorful language, He tells us not to “blow a trumpet” or stand and pray on street corners for the express purpose that others see us. He says that when we fast, we should strive not to let others know that we are fasting. If we try to make a show of our self-sacrifices, he says that we will have no recompense from our heavenly Father. He says that we should give alms in secret, and when we pray, to go to our inner room, close the door and pray in secret. He says that, despite the secrecy, our heavenly Father will see us and will repay us.
But more than such humility in prayer, almsgiving, and fasting, Scripture talks about this great virtue in our everyday lives as well. For example, boasting about what good things we may have accomplished in our jobs, in our families, or in our finances is the opposite of humility and we should strive to avoid it. I like the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee in Luke, Chapter 18. The Pharisee was bragging to and thanking God that he was not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, and adulterous – while the tax collector prayed “O, God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus concluded the parable with the famous verse: “… for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Apparently, it is those who live their earthly lives being mostly silent about their accomplishments who will be worthy of all praise in heaven, while those who fail to practice humility will ultimately be humbled and will not be justified.
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), had this to say: “Humility, humility, always humility. Satan fears and trembles before humble souls. The Lord is willing to do great things, but on condition that we are truly humble.” My prayer for today is this: Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner, and enter into my heart and soul and make me truly humble so that I may be exalted on judgment day. Amen.
The photo is of the statue of Padre Pio in the grounds of the Trinity Heights Center in Sioux City, Iowa.