Emulating Christ’s Humility

One of my favorite passages in Paul’s letters is the “plea for unity and humility” in the Letter to the Philippians.

As I was praying with it yesterday, the reality that so forcefully hit me (in a way it had not before) is that we are never justified in saying that something we are asked to do for the common good…for the sake of love of God and our brothers and sisters – not matter what it is – is beneath us

We are often obsessed with protecting our dignity. It is easy for us to think certain things we are asked to do are beneath us….are not befitting our particular station.

What stuck me so clearly as I sat with the words of the passage – reflecting on Jesus who “did not regard equality with God something to be grasped” but rather “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness” – is that there is absolutely nothing, no matter how beneath us it may seem, that compares to what Jesus did. Nothing can be so far beneath us so as to compare with Jesus’ humbling himself by taking on human form.

This passage is something of a reality check for our reactions. If there is some good reason for us to do a particular task or put ourself in a particular position – something that helps others, that promotes the common good – we can never use the excuse that it is beneath us. Jesus took that excuse off the table for good.


He Saw Them

The Gospel passage for yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, was Jesus’ healing of the ten lepers, recounted in St. Luke’s Gospel. We tend, when we listen to that passage, to focus on the one leper – the Samaritan – who came back to give thanks to Jesus. The passage invites a focus on gratitude, and that is what Fr. Rolf talked about at the Mass I attended at St. Hubert yesterday morning.

But what I kept coming back to as I listened to the passage again yesterday was something that Rev. Neil Willard had zeroed in on when he spoke about the passage at St. Stephen’s Episcopal on Wednesday evening – the most important aspect of Jesus’ encounter with the lepers.

When Jesus entered the village, ten lepers “stood at a distance form him and raised their voices” crying out for him to have pity on them. The next line of the Gospel says, “When he saw them” he told them to go how themselves to the priests, and as they went, they were cleansed.

He saw them. Jesus looked at the lepers and saw them. He did what most people didn’t do when a leper came near, so intent on putting distance between the leper and themselves that they never really saw them. He did what we so often don’t do when a beggar approaches us in the street – perhaps we toss a coin or a quick “sorry” in their direction as we hurry past so quickly we don’t really see them. He did what we don’t do anytime another approaches us who we don’t want to deal with for one reason or another.

He saw them. Jesus looked at the lepers and saw them. Even if he did nothing else, even if they had not been cleansed, he gave them an enormous gift simply by seeing them. By seeing them, he gave them dignity. By seeing them, he made them, not only lepers, but persons.

Who do we not see? And what would it mean to see that person the way Jesus does?

St. Joseph the Worker

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, one of two days in the church calendar on which we honor St. Joseph. The memorial was instituted by Pope Pius XII, some say in response to Communist-sponsored May day celebrations for workers. It is a day dedicated to the dignity of labor and to honoring workers.

Work is central to who we are as human persons. As my friend Randy Lee once put it, “man does not work because he does not have the wealth stored up to be constantly at rest; man works because his dignity is in creating.” Gaudium et spes speaks of work as the means by which humans develop themselves and in Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II observed that humans express and fulfill themselves by working.

This view of work stems from our creation in the image of God; created in the image of God, human are called to co-create the world with God. We participate in the act of creation, we share in God’s creative activity, through our work.

On this day on which we remember St. Joseph the Worker, we pray in a special way for all workers and we pray that we may develop and use the gifts God has given us to do the work to which He has called us.