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“True humility: key to perfect righteousness”

Sincerely speaking, who doesn’t desire the praise and respect of others? We all want others to see us at our best with all of our strengths and achievements – rather than at our worst with all of our faults and shortcomings. God sees us as we truly are – sinners and beggars always in need of his mercy, help, and guidance.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus warned the scribes and Pharisees, the teachers and rulers of Israel, to teach and serve their people with humility and sincerity rather than with pride and self-seeking privileges and honour. They went to great lengths to draw people’s admiration to their religious status and practices. In a way, they wanted to be good models of observant Jews. In their misguided zeal for religion they sought recognition and honour for themselves rather than for God. They made the practice of their faith a burden rather than a joy for the people they were supposed to serve. Jesus on the contrary tells us that true respect for God and for his ways should incline one to certain humility and simplicity of heart rather than self-seeking righteousness.

What is the nature of true humility then, and why should we embrace it as essential for our lives? We can easily mistake humility as something demeaning or harmful to our sense of well-being and feeling good about ourselves. True humility is not feeling bad about oneself, or having a low opinion of ourselves, or thinking of ourselves as inferior to all others. True humility frees us from preoccupation with ourselves, whereas a low self-opinion tends to focus our attention on ourselves. Humility is truth in self-understanding and truth in action. Viewing ourselves honestly, with sober judgment, means seeing ourselves the way God sees us (Psalm 139:1-4).

Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues because it enables us to see and judge correctly, the way God sees. Humility helps us to be teachable so we can acquire true knowledge, wisdom, and an honest view of reality. It directs our energy, zeal, and will to give ourselves to something greater than ourselves. Humility frees us to love and serve others willingly and selflessly, for their own sake, rather than for our own. Paul the Apostle gives us the greatest example and model of humility in the person of Jesus Christ, who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and… who humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8).

As Christians, our words and deeds, modelled on the humble service of Jesus himself, must be the source of encouragement and hope to others: we must become channels of God’s peace and love to all we meet.

(Cf: Don Schwager © 2017.


Fr Odinaka


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