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Out of his anguishCalled to be a humble Servant

Several weeks back the St. Patrick’s clergy gathered for a nice dinner and then a short meeting to discuss a plan to preach about the 5 values of the Parish Renewal efforts.

When we had things divided up I ended up with the value of gratitude. I was very excited by that possibility because having an attitude of gratitude is the theme of a number of books I have read by authors I admire.

A few days later Father asked if I could switch weekends which I said was possible. When I asked which value was scheduled for this homily he told me it was humility.

I believe the Holy Spirit may have been a part of this as humility is not always my strongest virtue.

If we venture over to the dictionary we see that Humility is considered to be the Freedom from pride and arrogance. This seems to be an inadequate definition of the idea of humility in a Christian context. It is only part of the story. To fill-out the definition more completely we need to add that humility is also the freedom from gloom and timidity.

While the dictionary and thesaurus may not agree with this expanded definition of humility, I believe this is what Jesus was teaching us especially in his command in today’s gospel to love another as he has loved us.

Let me explain.

There is a silent prayer in the Mass that is one of the most powerful moments in the celebration. It occurs when the gifts are being prepared at the altar. The deacon or priest will take the chalice and pour in some wine. He will then take the water and pour in a few drops and say this prayer:

By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

There is so much in this short prayer that almost no one gets to hear it is amazing.It acknowledges that the fact that Jesus came to walk amongst us is a mystery.

What makes it a mystery? For one thing it signifies that Jesus is fully divine and he came to earth to show us that we share in that divinity. It also reminds us that Jesus is the perfect example of humility as he willingly shares in our humanity.

Jesus shared in our humanity while being completely free from pride & arrogance as well as gloom & timidity. Jesus Christ had an ego that was in perfect balance.

Let’s place Jesus right here in the middle of our Church. Those standing in the middle isle represent all the people here who are living a completely humble and balanced Christian life. You will notice that it is completely empty at the moment.

Why is it empty?

Because to live humbly the way Jesus did is extremely hard.

Most of us live lives that are varying degrees away from the centre. Some are on the right and others on the left.

For purposes of example only, let us say that if you are on my right you tend to be more pride-filled and arrogant. That would mean if you are sitting on my left you tend more to be gloom-filled and timid. By the way this does not mean that you are not a good person completely loved by our God.

Those on the far right might have an attitude that they can fix any problem. They know the way because they have been gifted with unique insights and that if others follow them they too will see the light. We need people like this to get things done. Their challenge, however, may be in how they view the least of the brothers and sisters. They may choose a path to service that does not see the other as a person but more as a problem or a project to be solved or fixed.

Then there are our dear friends on the far left. They tend to view themselves as having few if any gifts to help others in need. You know the old saying that the pessimist sees a half filled glass as half empty while the optimist sees it as half full. Here I am talking about people who can’t even see the glass!

Sometimes you may find yourself on different sides of the centre depending on your circumstances.

Jesus’ human life was full of joy and gratitude but it also had unbelievable depths of pain and suffering.

Does that sound familiar? Does that sound like our lives?

In his teachings and his actions Jesus is constantly calling us to the centre, away from our pride and arrogance, away from our gloom and timidity and into a perfectly balanced ego. Yes EGO. This is where we realize that we are the beloved child of a loving God and we are called to be in his service and to do so with complete humility and love.

Are there any people who have made it to the centre aisle? A few perhaps.

There was Francis of Assisi to be sure. The son of a privileged family, Francis gave up the pursuit of wealth and pleasure to live a simple life of prayer and outreach to the poor.

He shared that if we start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; then suddenly we are doing the impossible.

A modern day Francis might well be Jean Vanier who was buried this week in a simple yet powerful celebration in France.Vanier was, like St. Francis, born into a family of privilege. His father, George, was the Governor General of Canada. Jean Vanier life’s work was the L’Arche community.

L’Arche began when Vanier was introduced to two men with disabilities through a priest friend, Father Thomas Philippe. Vanier asked the men, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, to move from the institution where they were living to his house in Trosly-Breuil, France.

I can’t remember where I heard this but I think Vanier once shared that when he met Raphael and Philippe he had to make a decision. Do I want to be their caregiver or do I want to be their friend? Both are worth while but they are different.

Jean Vanier was a man who understood the humility and the tenderness of Jesus Christ. He was a man of great talent but he was humble enough to know he was NOT there to fix these men and women with intellectual disabilities.He was faced daily with the unfairness of life as he looked at people so crippled they could not speak but he was not overcome with gloom. He did not raise his arms in desperation saying what is the use.

Vanier started with what was necessary, moved onto what was possible and then L’Arche, the impossible, was the result. Today in our gospel Jesus gives us the ”great commandment” to Love another as I have loved you.”

How did Jesus love us? Our Lord humbled himself to share in our humanity so that we may know that we are invited to share completely in his divinity.

When we put aside our pride and arrogance and move away from being glum and timid we can truly leave mass each week in peace to serve the Lord. We do this by being humble servants.

This view of our relationship with Jesus can be truly life-changing.

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