We Need to be Humble
Wednesday December 22, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Advent
Reading (1 Samuel 1:24-28) Gospel (St. Luke 1:46-56)
Yesterday we saw the meeting of Mary with Elizabeth, and Elizabeth proclaiming our Blessed Lady to be blessed and asking the question, How does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Today we hear our Blessed Lady’s response to that question of Elizabeth. When that question is asked, How does this happen to me…, Our Lady responds by simply pointing to God and saying, My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. Rather than focusing on herself, the entire focus is on the Lord. While under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Our Lady proclaims, From this day all generations will call me blessed, and acknowledges that the Almighty has done great things for her. Everything in the entire song The Magnificat is about God.
Now in the midst of that, she says, He has scattered the proud in their conceit, and, He has shown the strength of His arm. Our Lady recognizes her own humility, that He has looked upon the humility of His handmaiden, upon His lowly servant. Our Lady was the most humble person ever to have lived and God exalted her because of her humility. We can see that humility coming out very clearly in The Magnificat because, as I pointed out, everything is about God.
This is a lesson all of us need to learn from our Blessed Mother because all too often when something happens we like to take the credit. We like the attention. We like to point out to people just how wonderful we are, and all that does is show people how arrogant we are. The thing we have to keep in mind is exactly what Our Lady recognizes, that all the credit for the good has to go to God. We cooperated, we said “yes” just as she did, but she did not conceive this Child by herself in her womb. She did not become the Mother of God because of anything that she had done. She did not make herself worthy to be the Mother of the Lord. All of that was done by God. It was done in her (and she cooperated, thanks be to God!) but it was the Lord Who did it.
When we look at our own selves and we see the various talents and abilities that we have, those came from God. So it does not matter what it is that you have the capacity to do. Thanks be to God that we do have capacities to do different things, but those are all gifts from the Lord and it is not anything that any one of us can take credit for. We have cooperated, but that is all we can say. If God created you, for instance, with a profound intellect, you did not do that. Maybe you have read all kinds of books and taken all kinds of classes to develop the intellect, but it does not matter how many classes you take and how many books you read, you cannot make yourself to be a genius; either God created you that way or He did not. If you have all kinds of artistic ability, that is not because of all kinds of classes in art that you have taken, it is because God has given you the ability and then you have cooperated to develop it. If you have any skill, it is because it is a gift from the Lord. We have to learn from Our Lady to make sure that we give the credit where it is due – and that is to God. We have to be able to say that God in His mercy has done this and that all the credit for anything good has to go to the Lord. It is not anything that we can say, “Look at what I have done,” any more than Our Lady could say as she looked at her Baby, “Look at what I have done.” Yes, it was her Child and she cooperated with God, but it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that the Child was conceived. It was not anything she did by herself; she knew that and she was the first to acknowledge it.
As blessed as Our Lady is, as extraordinary as she is – truly the most extraordinary human person ever to live – she turns right around, takes the focus off of herself and puts it squarely on God. If that is the case for this world’s most extraordinary citizen, how much more should it be for us, especially those of us who are among this world’s least extraordinary citizens. Who are we to take credit? Who are we to magnify ourselves? If God is going to cast down the mighty from their thrones, if He is going to scatter the proud in their inmost thoughts, then we need to make sure we are not striving to be like that because the only ones who are going to be exalted to heaven are the humble. If we want to be arrogant, if we want to magnify ourselves, well, there is one person who has done that and he has two horns and a tail. We can be with him for eternity if we want to be arrogant just like him. It does not work. It does not get us anywhere. It does not gain respect from any person because we are bragging about ourselves, and it is not going to get us to heaven.
We need to strive for humility. We need to strive to recognize the truth and to acknowledge the truth that anything good comes from God. All the credit we can take is to say that we merely cooperated, that we are merely instruments – very, very weak instruments – that God has chosen for whatever reason, most often to prove that it was Him and not us because who else could have thought it. So we need to make sure the credit goes where it is due, and that is ultimately to God alone.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.