By Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends,
The little kid was studying evolution. He said, to his buddy, “It wouldn’t make any difference to me if my grandfather had been a monkey.” His buddy, a sharp little kid, said, “I’m sure that would have made a big difference to your grandmother.”
Our scripture readings this weekend speak to us about humility. Humility is honesty. Humility is happiness. Humility is hospitality.
The story is told of two mountain goats who approached one another on a narrow ledge. Realizing that there was no room to pass, they reared and bucked, but neither budged. They backed up and charged. They locked horns. But each held his ground. Again, they parted and charged. However, like the Rock of Gibraltar they stood unmovable. Finally, the sensible goat knelt down, and let the other one climb over him. Then, they both went merrily on their way. Sometimes we too must be humble enough to let people have their way. They might even walk over us. We must remember – love is magnanimous.
The late Commodore John W. Chaunce, the master of the original Queen Elizabeth, kept a framed copy of an old player in his quarters. This prayer applies to all:
“Lord, thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody, helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I am wanting a few friends at the end.
“Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare to ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience.
“I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and lessening cock-sureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
“Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a saint – some of them are so hard to live with – but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people. And give me, Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”
Humility is honesty. The late Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias is remembered as one of the most talented female athletes in America. On the golf course she surpassed everyone.
During a tournament she happened to drive her tee shot into the rough. Immediately after she hit her second shot out of the rough she realized that she had hit the wrong ball. She reported her mistake to the officials. Someone asked Babe why she reported the mistake to the official. No one else knew that she hit the wrong ball. Babe said, “But I knew I hit the wrong ball. I knew at that moment that I could not claim victory if I mistakenly hit the wrong ball.”
Humility is happiness:
Not what you have, but what you see;
Not what you see, but what you choose;
Not what seems fair, but what is true;
Not what you dream, but what you do;
Not what you take but what you give:
Not what you pray, but as you live.
These are the things that mar or bless the sum of human happiness.
Humility is hospitality. The Benedictine monks around the world are known for their hospitality. In Collegeville, Minnesota, the Benedictines have a monastery. The monks are well known for offering a delicious meal to visitors. Everyone who visits the monastery will always remember the tasty bread the monks bake. The bread is widely known as ‘Johnny Bread.’
Although the following paragraph contains the spirit of Benedictine hospitality, the last sentence was an ‘add on.’ ‘If any pilgrim monk come from distant parts, with wish as a guest to dwell in the monastery, and will be content with the customs which he finds in the place, and do not perchance by his lavishness disturb the monastery, but is simply content with what he finds, he shall be received, for as long a time as he desires. If, indeed, he find fault with anything, or expose it, reasonable, and with the humility of charity, the Abbot shall discuss it prudently, lest perchance God has sent him for his very thing. But if he has been found gossipy and contumacious in the time of his sojourn as guest, not only ought he not to be joined to the body of monastery, but also it shall be said to him, honestly, that he must depart. If he does not go, let two stout monks, in the name of God, explain the matter to him.’
We definitely don’t want to imitate Ted Turner who said, “If only I had a little more humility, I would be perfect.”
Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.