Homily: The Clever Steward

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The Twenty-fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)
Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Luke 16:1-13

There are a million stories, in fiction and reality, of people coming up with clever schemes to get rich, or to guard their possessions, or to provide for themselves when the stuff hits the fan.

Our Gospel reading today is our third weekend in a row that Jesus gives us a difficult parable. This time, not just difficult to apply, but even difficult to understand. The great scripture scholars of past and present have struggled with the parable in today’s Gospel. Often in the parables of Jesus, God is symbolized by the Father, or by the Master. And here, the Master commends, (compliments) his dishonest steward for his clever scheme. Are we supposed to steal and cheat, like worldly people? Is that what Jesus is teaching us in this reading?

Well…No. But if not, then what’s the lesson God has given us today? It is actually pretty clever. And we can put it together when we consider the other readings. The lesson is, God takes particular care of the poor, and we must take particular care of the poor, on God’s behalf. Christ is the head, and if we are members of the body, we have to commit to what the head instructs us to do.

Let’s put off the gospel for a moment. First, we’ll look at the first reading. “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! ‘When will the new moon be over,’ you ask, ‘that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating…” And the ending is very important: “The LORD has sworn…: Never will I forget a thing they have done!” Amos was the earliest of the biblical prophets to write his own message. At the time, the northern kingdom was enjoying great prosperity, but there were sharp contrasts between rich and poor, and many instances of injustice: the spirit of true religious devotion was difficult to find. Amos condemns the social injustice and the insincerity of religious worship.

It’s a good thing those times are past, right? When was the last call you received to renew your car warranty? How many calls were received from people pretending to be from the IRS? How many hackers are there, and new online scams? Oh, those evil people out there, right? When will the new moon be over,’ you ask, ‘that we may sell our grain; and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?When will the Mass be over, so we can get ahead of the others, out of the parking lot? How many people sit in the church while Mass is going on, but they’re on their phone, or reading the bulletin, or daydreaming of something else, and not really present to the Mass? Or how many should be here and aren’t, because they don’t honor their holy obligation to attend Mass? “The LORD has sworn…: Never will I forget a thing they have done!” First, we have to be his people, then we have to be filled with him in mind and heart, then we have to live that way …especially when it comes to being generous and being holy.

Our Psalm echoes God’s care for the poor… Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor!” “He raises up the lowly from the dust; from the dunghill he lifts up the poor to seat them with princes…” How does he do that? Through us; by our listening to the prophets, by focusing our lives on God and his instructions to care for the poor, by having integrity and not sinning, especially against the poor and vulnerable.

St. Paul says in our second reading, “First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” We pray for, and we help, not just our own people, but the whole world, from our leaders, to our homeless. We follow God’s will by our prayers for them, and our actions to help them, teach them, encourage them, provide for them. This is what our intercessions (the “Prayers of the Faithful”) are directed toward. We pray for civil leaders to protect the natural rights of religion, and of the faithful, and to seek the common good, which is both the collective good of the many, and the individual good of each person.

So now we’re back to the gospel reading. So the master commends the dishonest steward for his prudence. He’s impressed with the plan the steward carried out to make use of his resources to accomplish his goal. That’s what the master is commending. Not the dishonesty, or the theft. The steward was using the master’s money to pay off his clients, and making friends, who are now in debt to himself. It was all done with the master’s money. And that’s the key to the parable.

The gospel isn’t telling us to become friends of dishonest wealth. It says to use dishonest wealth to make friends. And dishonest wealth, or untrue wealth, is the resources of this world, stuff that isn’t eternal and really important, in order to serve the higher, eternal purposes.

There is an interesting concept in our tradition, that goes back to our Jewish roots, that the poor that we serve with love and generosity are our heavenly treasure. And they in turn will intercede for us at our judgment. We don’t do this with an attitude of exploiting the poor with selfish intent, to buy our salvation. It is out of love for them. And they then, in love and gratitude, help us.

Now connect that with the idea of stewardship, rather than ownership. We don’t own our money or possessions. They all belong to God. It’s all his wealth, and we are merely entrusted with using it for God’s purposes. The material things, the wealth of this world, which are technically from God, are what is being called “dishonest wealth,” wealth that is not the true wealth of heaven. And the moral of the parable is to spread that everywhere. One might say, to be prodigal with it—spending it with wild carelessness—on the poor—on those who most need help. And thus the dishonest wealth at our disposal is converted from dishonest wealth (wealth that doesn’t last), into true wealth. And thus we benefit by then having our friends who can help us later, when we’re at judgment, and the poor we have helped say to the master, “this is a good person, my friend, who was generous and loving toward me when I was poor and needed help. And now I intercede on their behalf, when they need help.” That’s what our stewardship of the master’s wealth is for. To use our master’s temporal wealth as he would—with generosity. So by our trustworthiness in the small matters of temporal wealth, which is God’s, we show ourselves to be trustworthy with the true wealth, which is our salvation.

The things of this world, dishonest wealth, are meant to be tools, instruments for us. The same is true of our time: we can use it on things that don’t matter as much (hobbies, extra money, sports), over the things that truly matter, like our life in God. The Mass is how God continually purifies us to be his people. We also have daily mass, for those who are able to do so (and if you are able, you are encouraged to do so!) But without the Mass, we allow the sins and errors of this world to attack our minds and hearts unchallenged. They grow in us like an infection. Mass is the life-saving antivirus to the sinful influence of the world. You cannot be the servant of both God and the world. Only one gives eternal life.

And so Paul ends our second reading, “It is my wish, then, that in every place people should pray, lifting up holy hands…

Let us put first things first: the worship of God, and the care of our neighbor, especially those in need. That we might not have hands that are made unholy by sin, greed, and disorder; but hands that are employed in holy works of mercy, that we may be good stewards of all that is entrusted to our care, as God’s holy people.

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Homily: Lost and Found

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The Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-32

Our Gospel reading we just heard is a parable in three images, tied together with the theme of “Lost and Found.”

The first image is the shepherd who leaves his flock of 99 sheep in the wilderness to go after one stray sheep. Jesus tells his listeners, “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” And the answer is, no one would do that! The parables of Jesus share two universal features: the twist, and the upshot. Almost all his parables have a twist, or maybe even more than one, where he says something striking to catch people’s attention, and gets them to listen and remember his parable. Then he ends with the upshot, in Hebrew, the nimshal, which is the teaching-point of the parable. There’s the twist: no shepherd would leave 99 sheep vulnerable in the wilderness to find one single sheep. So, Jesus grabs their attention with something unexpected. Then he continues, “And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’” Ok, a second twist. Sheep and cows get lost all the time. Fences break, animals wander, it happens. And when they’re found, the farmer doesn’t call all his farmer friends and have a party. Then finally, Jesus finishes this first image: “I tell you, in just the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” There’s the nimshal, the upshot, the teaching point. Jesus reveals that he is using this image to teach us that heaven rejoices over the lost being found, more than over the righteous who were never lost.

Of course, it’s obvious Jesus isn’t talking about sheep. Remember the beginning of the reading, the occasion for Jesus to give this parable. “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So to them he addressed this parable.” These sinners gathered around Jesus are people breaking the law of Moses in a public and grave way. Prostitutes and harlots openly broke the sixth commandment against adultery and fornication. Tax collectors openly broke the seventh commandment about stealing, getting rich on collecting more than what the Romans taxed. That’s the situation Jesus is in. The Pharisees are scandalized. This might be like a bishop being criticized for having dinner with a “Catholic” politician whose political actions consistently violate Catholic teaching, causing scandal to the upright and holy people of the Church.

One of the things I love about this is how Jesus gets in a dig at the Pharisees. They are of course sinners, too, because we’re all sinners. But they see themselves as righteous, having no need of forgiveness. But Jesus ends the parable saying, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” Why? Because the Pharisees are too self-righteous to recognize their sinfulness. The self-righteous don’t cause any joy in heaven, because their pride will keep them from heaven. So Jesus is also chastising them to recognize that they also need repentance.

And it’s a beautiful image Jesus gives us, of the joy the truly Good Shepherd has at finding his lost lamb, setting it on his shoulders with great joy, and carrying it home. And I love the quote I saw online that said…
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The second image Jesus gives is similar. This coin was about the worth of a day’s wages. So not a winning lottery ticket, but not something you’d want to lose, either. It might have been one of the ten coins that made up the nuptial headdress, like a wedding ring. Houses were not well lit, so it would be difficult to find. And when she finds it, she’s filled with joy—this coin that has much more sentimental value than its cash value. And Jesus ends this image like he did the first. The lost coin is like the lost sinner who is now found, worth more to God than most people would reasonably value. And there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Again, Jesus is also making an invitation to the Pharisees, not just the other people. God wills that all people would seek His mercy and be saved.

And finally, after the parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, we have the Lost Son, which we often call the Prodigal Son. Jesus packs a lot into this story, and we’re not going to unpack it, because the Gospel reading was so long. We’re just going to touch on one thing: the older brother. The older brother can symbolize a lot of things. In our specific gospel reading, he represents the Pharisees. He was resentful of the younger brother, who foolishly and sinfully chose to get himself lost. So when the older brother finds out the younger brother has decided to return, and that The Father has forgiven and restored him with joy and mercy, the older brother has a choice. He can hold on to his resentment, or he can share in the joy and mercy of the Father.

The Father came outside to find the older brother, too, so that he would not be lost. But the hard-hearted resentment of the older brother is a warning from Jesus. If we take the attitude of the older brother (or the Pharisees) that those who got themselves lost deserve to stay lost, then we risk turning ourselves away from the joyful heavenly banquet feast over the lost one who was found.

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Homily: “…But God’s First”

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The Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)
Wisdom 9:13-18b
Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17
Philemon 9-10, 12-17
Luke 14:25-33

Our gospel reading we just heard today, is another one of Jesus’ “difficult sayings,” like we heard last week, when he said, “When you hold a dinner, do not invite your friends or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors. Rather, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” There’s often the temptation when preaching on difficult passages like these to explain how Jesus didn’t really mean what he said, and so we don’t really need to make any big changes from what we’re already doing, because we’re already basically good people.

St. Thomas More was the Lord Chancellor of England, when Henry VIII was the King. More was a successful lawyer and a renowned spiritual and political writer. Image result for saint thomas moreHaving failed to have a son with his wife Catherine, and frustrated that the pope would not grant him an annulment so he could marry Lady Anne Boleyn instead, Henry passed into law the “Act of Succession,” and required his public officials to swear an oath which a) recognized the child of Henry and his second wife Anne Boleyn as the heir to the throne; b) declared Henry’s first marriage with Catherine as null and void, and c) repudiated the authority of the Pope, and declared the king the head of the Church in England. Thomas More refused to take the oath. He spent fifteen lonely months imprisoned in the Tower of London. His family implored him, for his sake and theirs, to take the oath, but Thomas refused. He was convicted of treason and was beheaded. On mounting the scaffold, Thomas More proclaimed that he died as his majesty’s good servant… but God’s first.St. Thomas More put his discipleship of Christ above his employment, king, security, reputation; above his wife, children, and even his own life. (I highly recommend the movie called “A Man for All Seasons,” which is based on St. Thomas More.)

So we shouldn’t be so quick to assume that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said. It’s true that most of us won’t have to choose between life and death for our faith. Maybe. It’s also true that the secular culture is falling farther and farther away from the true Teaching of the Church, the Scriptures, and God, and we might indeed have to make the choice between the demands of our Faith and the demands of secular society.

In our gospel reading we might get hung up on the actual words Jesus gives us, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Jesus didn’t mean “hate” in this context the way we normally mean, “hate.” Certainly, we shouldn’t hate anyone. Obviously. To understand any verse of scripture, we need to look at its context and meaning in relation to all of scripture. Just a little while ago, Jesus taught we must love our enemies, we must love our neighbor as ourselves. As the Ten commandments require, we must “Honor thy father and mother.” What’s even better, is that this same scene in our gospel from Luke also appears in a very similar form in Matthew, where Jesus says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” So if we take all this together, we have a much better understanding of what Jesus is teaching us.

However, as we can tell from the martyrdom of St. Thomas More, “better understanding” doesn’t necessarily mean “easy.” “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Criminals condemned to death had to carry their own cross to their execution. They knew they were going to die, and that the suffering was going to be humiliating and painful. It’s potentially true physically, that we may fulfill these words as so many other martyrs have. And it’s definitely true spiritually, that we must die to our disordered appetites, our pride, our apathy, and all of our other favorite sins. And we must forgive and love, especially when we least want to.

As Christ tells us, we had better take stock of what we’re willing to let go of to be a disciple of Christ, because nothing in this world is worth losing heaven. Jesus ends our gospel reading with two images. First, the man who started building a tower without knowing that he would have the resources to finish the project. That of course doesn’t mean that we have to fully understand God’s plan, fully have everything cash in hand, and fully rely on ourselves and not on trust and faith. It means to take stock of what it means to be Christian, and what it could cost, and whether you have the resolve to follow Christ wherever he might lead you, and do whatever he might ask of you. Do you have the trust that, where he leads you and what he asks of you, is for your salvation, even if you don’t understand it at the time? And perhaps a more difficult question, do you believe that the Catholic Church has the divine authority to teach the truth necessary for your salvation, worthy of your sacrifice, as Saint Thomas More did?

The second image Jesus gives is the king with the wisdom to determine whether his army can successfully oppose an attacking enemy who has a greater army. The fool who is proud and impulsive is going to rush in, without considering the losses that would be endured, or the wisdom of planning a successful strategy. The Christian life is not something to be taken lightly. The cost could be everything. We must have the detachment to let go of it. “In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” That doesn’t mean that we have to give everything away; but it does mean that we have to be willing to do that, if that’s what the Lord asks us to do.

As Jesus, and the entire Word of God, reiterates over and over, the most important thing is the discipline and detachment to seek (to love) the heavenly long-term that we cannot see over the earthly short-term which is always grabbing our attention. We need the assistance of divine wisdom. That wisdom tells us, in our first reading, “The deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. …  And scarce do we guess the things on earth. And what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?” Even the limited earthly things we don’t really understand; how could we possibly hope to reach heavenly things, without trusting God? Our psalm reaffirms that the things of this world, and life in this world, are so short and fragile (trivial), yet the things of heaven are true and eternal.

The ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates said, “Before you heal someone, ask him if he’s willing to give up the things that made him sick.” Our Lord loves us. He wants to heal us, to show us his mercy. We must be willing to give up everything for Him.

It’s not a question of what you say you believe, it’s not what devotionals you read, it’s not what sermons you hear. It’s not what goes into a person, but what comes out. It’s a question of, do you completely give yourself to believing and trusting and following Jesus, as his disciple, in his Church, over all else… or do you not?

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Homily: Banquet Etiquette

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The Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Psalm 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24A
Luke 14:1, 7-14

When I put together this homily, I approached it a different way than I usually do, which is that, I knew how I wanted to end it, so I wrote that first, and then waited to see what space I had left for the rest. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the ending took up about 80% of the homily. So, before I get to that, here’s the 20%, which I guess is basically just an introduction to the ending.

In our Gospel, Jesus makes two statements. In his first statement, to the guests, his message is about humility. Don’t be narcissistic, thinking you’re the most interesting person in the room, always promoting yourself. As the comedian Brian Regan says, don’t be a “MeMonster”, the one who’s conversation is, “Me, myself, and I, and me, me and mine, my story, about me…”. Jesus said, be humble. Take a low, unimportant position, and maybe you’ll be invited to a better seat. If you exalt yourself, you will be humbled, but if you humble yourself, you will be exalted. That’s the thrust of the first reading, too. “My child, 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.”

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The second part of Jesus’ message, he directs to the host of the banquet, and Jesus shifts his focus from the virtue of humility, to the virtue of charity. When you give a banquet, don’t just invite your friends and family and those you want to honor; invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, those who cannot return your hospitality and generosity. Why? Because we shouldn’t think of them as strangers, but as our brothers and sisters, like ourselves. Spiritually, we are poor (we foolishly amass useless trinkets, but are not rich in the things of God), we’re crippled (we fail to go and do what we ought to), we’re blind (we don’t see things and others as we ought to), we’re lame (broken with the sins we’ve committed against our own human dignity).  

Jesus frequently uses the metaphor of a banquet to refer to the joy of heaven, the Supper of the Lamb, which we share in, even now, as the celebration of the Eucharist. Our participation is meant to inspire us to go invite others, the “poor, crippled, blind, and lame” to this communion banquet that is healing us, so they may be healed also. And as you may know, those who have suffered humiliation and poverty, often become the most humble and generous people toward others.

So now the super-deluxe ending. As some of you may know, I went to Saint Vincent Seminary, which is run by the Benedictine monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe. Image result for saint vincent seminarySaint Benedict, who lived in Italy in the 6th century, is widely regarded as the father of Western Monasticism. In his Rule of Life that he wrote for his Benedictine monks, one of the most famous chapters in the book is on humility. Benedict anchors his teaching on humility in today’s gospel reading. In the beginning of the chapter, he says [paraphrasing for brevity], “Brothers, the sacred Scriptures cry out to us and say: ‘Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’ Brothers, if we wish to reach that heavenly exaltation which is attained through humility we must set up that ladder which appeared in Jacob’s dream and by which angels were shown to be both descending and ascending; as descending by exaltation and ascending by humility. For that ladder set up is our life in this world which, when the heart has been humbled by the Lord, is set up to heaven. And we say that the rungs [are those] of humility and discipline by which we may ascend.” St. Benedict goes on to give 12 steps. You thought the twelve step program was invented in the 20th Century for people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, but St Benedict invented the first 12 step program, and it’s for those of us who are addicted to ourselves. Here are the steps that St. Benedict gave, in brief:

Step 1: Obeying all of God’s commandments. He says: “To set the proper fear of God always before our eyes, to keep from sins and faults of thought, of the tongue, of the eye, of the hand, of the foot, or of self-will.” In other words, act like God is God and you’re not.

Step 2: Don’t bother to please yourself. In other words, don’t take the best seat (at church, at dinner, anywhere). Don’t take the biggest slice of pie. Look for opportunities to grow in self-denial. (Of course, in church, it seems a bit reversed… the most coveted seats are in the back… so to grow in humility, everyone should move toward the front… and to have the humility to leave only when mass is finished, not to decide on their own to leave when they want to leave…)

Step 3: Obedience to your superior. Obeying parents, teachers, supervisors; obeying the laws, etc. If we always agreed with what they say, it wouldn’t be humility and discipline. But to bend our will to their proper authority over us can teach us humility.

Step 4: Patient and quiet perseverance in suffering. In other words, no complaining. If you meet somebody who complains all the time, you can basically rest assured that they’re not humble. The reason people complain is they think they don’t deserve it. “Why is this happening to me? I don’t deserve this.” The wages of sin are death. We have all sinned, what we deserve is death, and then separation from God. We don’t want what we deserve! Enduring suffering without complaining, and even showing gratitude for God’s mercy that we deserve much worse than what we’re suffering, is to grow in humility and holiness. The fallacy of liberation theology is that those suffering unjustly have the right to rise up with violence against their oppressors. But the Church says that we may not sin as a response to sin. Yes, we should resist injustice, but we can also grow in humility while we suffer it.

Step 5: Humble and thorough confession of your sins and faults. The more you go to confession, the more your conscience is attentive to sin. I know it’s humbling to go to Confession. And what a blessing comes from that trust and humility!

Step 6: The acceptance of crude and harsh tasks. No grumbling. Grumbling is also a sign of pride. Related imageYou have to do something you don’t want to do, that’s beneath your dignity? Watch Mike Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs.” There’s a saying, “If serving is beneath you, leadership is beyond you.” Get down in the muck and do what has to be done.

Step 7: Don’t only confess that you are inferior to others but believe it in your heart. Look for ways that others are better than you, and praise them, especially to others. Start to see everyone else’s virtues as greater than yours. Pray the Litany of Humility. Instead of judging others as less than you, exalt them above you. That’s the cultivation of real humility. Don’t just seek the lowest place at the banquet, seek the lowest place in your own eyes.

Step 8: Strict observance of a Rule of Life. The monks have this code of rules to follow. It’s obedience. The same thing could be true in our lives: certain rules for the household, or workplace. Or even a personal code of rules. No internet after 9, lights out at 10. No meat on Fridays. Exercise 3 times a week, pray 30 minutes every day. Follow a rule of life as a way of conquering your will and improving yourself. I love the quote that “Discipline is choosing what you want most over what you want now.”

Step 9: The practice of silence. People who never stop talking are usually not very humble, because they think what they have to say is so important that everyone needs or wants to hear it. The Me-Monster. Also, being in silence. Turn off the TV and music, have some silence in your life. Wrestle with the big questions, the big problems in your life. Learn to listen for the gentle voice of God.

Step 10: Restraint from laughter and frivolity. This one might be more fitting to a monk in religious life, and maybe not even then; I’ve met a lot of very jolly and laughter-prone monks. Certainly though in the matter frivolity, which the dictionary describes as being self-indulgently carefree and unconcerned about any serious purpose, we don’t want that. We don’t want to waste the gifts and opportunities we are given, or not take into account that we will answer to God for how we live and make our choices. Laughter is healthy and good. We’re called to celebrate the Mass. We honor the mysteries and saints of our faith as Feast days! We’re called in this life to participate in the joy of the heavenly wedding banquet! It’s good to be joyful. Just don’t be stupid. 

Step 11: Speaking few words, simply and seriously. Jesus said, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Or as the 80’s song goes, “why don’t they do what they say, say what they mean, one thing leads to another.” Or as the bishop says in the Mass of Ordination, “Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach.” So being a person of few words, being simple and direct, is also an act of humility. Not just talking to talk. And finally…

Step 12: Showing humility in your heart and in your appearance and actions. In other words, being a visible reminder to others of humility and simplicity. Living below your means, paying off your debts, dressing simply and inexpensively, etc. It’s not only humble, it’s also very freeing, and we are made to be free. But first we have to humbly submit to God’s wisdom and mercy in getting free from our earthly captivity, both morally and materially.

So that’s Saint Benedict’s 12-step program for humility. I just thought it was fascinating, because here’s a simple saying of Jesus: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” And the Church Fathers, our Sacred Tradition, draws out the deep meaning of just this very short saying, to teach us how we as disciples of Jesus, can live this out so that we can grow in the virtue of humility. And if just this short saying can yield all this wisdom, what a feast the entire word of God can be for us. And if we do those things (hopefully), we’ll get a good seat at the banquet table of Heaven.

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