True Humility

Thursday December 20, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week in Advent

Reading (Isaiah 7:10-14) Gospel (St. Luke 1:26-38)

In these two readings today, we see the mercy of God and we see the reaction of humanity. We have two different possibilities [of reactions] to God’s generosity. First we see Ahaz: The Lord says through the prophet Isaiah, "Ask for a sign; let it be as high as the sky or as deep as the nether world." In other words, ask for absolutely anything that your wildest imagination can think of. And Ahaz, who was not a good king and was certainly not a devout or holy person – in fact, he was into false worship and all kinds of bad things; he led the people of Israel right down the wrong path – suddenly becomes ‘Mr. Devout’ and says, "Oh, no. I will not tempt the Lord!" Now, the Lord asked him to do this and he said no. On the one hand, that seems to be a rather devout sort of thing. And it is probably – tragically – the response that most of us would have. If the Lord actually made something very clear to us, we would probably say no because we are afraid.

Then you look at what happens with Our Lady. The angel comes to her and tells her what is going to happen and says to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary." And Our Lady’s response: "I am the maidservant of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word." That is the kind of response that each one of us has to have with the Lord. Yesterday I mentioned how we try to rationalize our way around everything, how we have all these justifications of why God could not choose us, why He could not do for us what He does for others. We can understand that He would love other people; we can understand that He would forgive them; we can even understand that He would call them to certain vocations. But us? Oh, we think that it cannot be us - we are just too unworthy of that; we are too bad; we are too big of a sinner and all these other things that we can come up with. What we need to do is get rid of the Ahaz Complex and take on what Our Lady was doing and simply go before the Lord and accept and say, "I am the maidservant (or servant) of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word."

Our Lady did not have to understand. She did not understand: "How can this be since I do not know man?" The angel explained how it would happen but he did not explain the depths of it. How was she to understand what was going on within her? She could not. Did she think herself to be worthy of such a thing? Absolutely not. Yet, she was willing to say yes; that is the humility of Our Lady. What appears to be humility and what appears to be a little bit of devotion on Ahaz’s part is nothing but pride. And that is exactly what we suffer from when we sit back and say, "God isn’t able to do this." The angel says to Mary, "Nothing is impossible for God." Even for us to be called, even for us to be loved, even for us to be saints – it is not for everybody else only – it is for each one of us. God has called you by name. God has chosen you for Himself. God is the one who has called you to whatever it is that He is asking of you. And all that you need to do is say yes. Do not try to figure it out because you cannot; and you will not because it will not make sense.

So all we can do is have the humility of Our Lady and be willing to say yes. God’s generosity is infinitely more than anything that we will ever be able to come up with, which is why it does not make any sense to us. But "love is not a reasonable thing," as one of the saints said. Love is something which is unreasonable. In other words, you do not think it out before you decide whether or not you are going to love someone; you simply love them. Not logically, but you love them for who they are. That is what God has done. He has made you to be loved and He loves you. Not because you are worthy, not because you have earned it, not because you deserve it, but just because you are the person whom God created to be loved. Therefore, He loves you with an everlasting love and with a generosity that is completely unreasonable and yet will never fail. All things are possible for God. All things are possible for God.

We have our choice of what the response is going to be: false humility or real humility. False humility says, "No, it can’t be me. Choose someone else," when it is God who knows perfectly what He desires for each one of us and knows what we are capable of. He is the One who has made the decision. So that is pride, and it needs to be rejected. The other possibility is true humility. That is what we see in Our Lady: "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word."

* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.