Detachment and Humility
Monday September 27, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Job 1:6-22) Gospel (St. Luke 9:46-50)
In the first reading today, we hear the tragic story of Job and how his life is going along just fine until suddenly one day Satan attacks and destroys everything that he has, including his children. And Job speaks those very famous words: Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall go back again. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord!
Obviously, if all those events would happen one day in our lives, chances are that most of us would not be able to repeat anything even remotely similar to what Job was able to do. However, it is the perspective and the attitude that we have to be able to see because we get so attached to various things. We really have to look at it and remember the words of Saint Paul when he said, Show me anything you have that you have not received. If you have received it, why do you boast of it as if it is yours? Everything we have is something that has been given, even if we can say, “No, I worked hard for this. I earned the money and I was able to purchase it myself. I did it.” You have to remember that the job we have to be able to work is a gift, so everything we have is ultimately a gift. And everything we have other than what is in our souls is going to stay behind. Everything other than what is in our souls is going to stay behind, which tells us that we need to put a lot more focus on what is going to be eternal rather than what is going to be temporal. There is nothing inherently wrong with having some things and having an inheritance to pass on to your children, however, there is something very wrong with putting the focus on those things. It is the soul that matters. The soul is what is immortal. The soul is going to live on, and it is in our souls that we are going to go forth to judgment. Part of the judgment is going to be whether we were attached to all the material things, whether we made them more important than God, so we need to make sure we have our priorities right.
One of the other problems that happen is what we see in the Gospel. Even if we get ourselves completely detached from all the material things, we still have spiritual things to deal with. Here you have the apostles talking about which one of them is greater, so we see the pride that gets in the way. We could go home today and throw everything away or give everything away, we could be down to the absolute bare minimum, and then we could walk away and say, “Wow! Look at how great I am. Look at what I just did. Aren’t I wonderful?” What good did it all do? We got rid of the material things that stand between us and God, perhaps, and we made something even worse, that is, the arrogance that stands between us and God.
We like to judge. We like to place ourselves, of course, above everyone else. And then there is the false humility. We will even be able to say, “Oh, no, no, no; I’m the least,” and then we take pride in being the least. It is one of those strange things where we get so proud of our humility that there is no humility, yet we like to convince ourselves that there is so that we can continue doing what we are doing. The devil is going to try to get us in any way he can. If it is not something material we are taking pride in, then it is something spiritual we are taking pride in. If it is not judging somebody else in a negative way, then it is trying to make ourselves look better than someone else, trying to convince ourselves of how wonderful we are. On and on and on it goes.
The Lord makes very clear that the one who is the greatest is the one who makes himself the least. That is what we have to be about. We need to strive toward that attitude that Job had of detachment, of seeking God’s Will, of being able to accept whatever comes from the hand of God, which is not always easy, in fact, sometimes is exceedingly difficult. And we have to have the attitude of humility, of being the least, of being the one who is here to serve the rest.
These are not easy things for us because they go against everything within us – except the greatest thing within us is that we are members of Jesus Christ, Who had nothing and came to serve and not to be served. That is something within the hearts of each one of us. We know that when we see it and embrace it, it is the right thing. That is what we have to strive for: to be very careful about getting caught up in anything that is not God. Of course, the worst thing to get caught up in that is not God is our own self, so that is where our struggle comes. Those are the areas of weakness that the devil is going to pick on, so we need to pray for detachment, we need to pray for humility, and, if you have the courage, pray and ask God to help you to see yourself as you really are, that is, to see yourself as He sees you. That will help you more than anything to recognize that among all people you are the least. In that way, we can truly see ourselves and accept and live the truth, and, in that way, find eternal life. We will have then nothing that we are holding onto so we can take our souls with a pure love for God into eternity.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.