Summary: Part of preparing to celebrate Easter is examining ourselves, whether there is anything not of the new creation in us.
I’d like to talk to you this evening about humility.
Humility has been much misunderstood and, frankly, is quite unpopular today. We can say, “Pride cometh before the fall,” but to really live that out requires radical commitment—a lifestyle that the world is unable to assimilate. Jesus Christ has given His Church the example to follow and He has indicated the path we must take. The time to humbly seek God is now; God wants you and me to really seek Him; and therefore we must remove whatever blocks us from reaching our God.
The time is now. In our reading today from 2 Corinthians 5, beginning at verse 20… St. Paul addresses us with authority. “We implore you on Christ’s behalf…” He is addressing us in Christ’s stead, as an apostle. Looking down in chapter 6, verse 2, he says, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” This is the day. We cannot have back yesterday; we don’t have tomorrow. What is so pressing? That we “Be reconciled to God.” God has given us the opportunity of salvation through Jesus: “God has made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Nevertheless, this “day of salvation” is not to be taken lightly, for it is the Day of Judgment. Joel writes, “The day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand—a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor will be in ages to come.” The Day of the Lord will see condemnation and mercy. On it, all will stand before the fearful judgment seat of God. Jesus Christ is our advocate. But He is also the Pantokrator, the ruler of all things. But even before this terrifying judgment, we have a choice. God calls us to repentance.
““Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing—grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.””
God calls us to “return” to Him, for we were once wholly His. We are His covenant people; He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep of His hand. We are dear to God, and He earnestly desires our restoration. The Lord is your God! He has called us into covenant relationship with Himself.
What’s more, if we truly return to Him, His mercy is great. When Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac, God stopped him. He saw that Abraham loved God more than his son, the son of promise. And God provided a ram for the sacrifice. (Gen 22). And when David sinned by calling for a census, and the destroying angel to strike down the people, God restrained the angel at the threshing floor of Araunah. And David came and bought the threshing floor, oxen, and wood, and offered sacrifice to God. God—Jehovah Jireh—will provide a way. We must be willing to take it. This is the time. This is the day.
God is calling you and me. In today’s Gospel reading from the Daily office (Luke 18:9–14), Jesus tells us of a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee excepts himself from judgment: “I thank you that I am not like other men…” But the tax collector sorely feels his connection to sinfulness., beating his breast saying, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Who was forgiven? Who saw his own poverty of soul? Both men were in the same state before God, but the Pharisee was unable to humble himself to receive God’s mercy. Humbleness requires…humiliation. Humiliation is not popular, it doesn’t sell, it doesn’t have mass appeal. But we must humble ourselves before God, we must judge ourselves now (1 Cor. 11:31), here, so that we will be ready when we stand before God and He judge us.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux when asked about his book On the Steps of Humility and Pride, why it focused so much on pride more than humility responded that he thought that he should focus on what he knew best. St. Bernard understood the primacy of humility in our Christian walk. His exegesis of John 14:6, where Jesus says, “I AM the way, the truth, and the life, shines light on our calling. What is the way? Jesus tells us that he is “gentle and humble in heart” (Mt. 11:29). Humility is the way we must learn from Christ. The food of humility is bitter and purgative. It cleanses us from false illusions about ourselves and opens us to be receptive to greater things. Thus, this way leads us to the truth, which is the light of life, the reward for our humility. The food of truth is sweet, so much so that it seems to be an end in itself. But we cannot allow ourselves to remain here.