The first Mass reading today from the Book of Sirach instructs “conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” Similarly, today’s Gospel from Luke finds Jesus using the example of banquet seating as a way to instruct against the desire for honor and in favor of humility.
In his homily this morning, Fr. Dan Griffith suggested that humility is one of the virtues most prized by Jesus. And he suggested three ways to practice humility: to know who we are before God, to recognize and admit our weaknesses and limitations, and to recognize that all of our gifts come from God.
Together those three practices help us understand the difference between true humility and false humility. True humility is not about low self-esteem or feeling badly about ourselves. It is about seeing ourselves as we truly are. And that means first, understanding that (to use a colloquial expression I sometimes use) that God is God and I am not and embracing my dependence on God (poverty of spirit). It means second, understanding that all we are and all we have are gifts from our loving God. And it means accepting both that I am not perfect and that God does not expect perfection from me.
The truly humble see themselves as they are, neither lower or higher. And that is a worthy virtue to practice.