The humility of Christ and of his followers: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 6, 2014 (Year A)

Sorrowing Old Man ('At Eternity's Gate') by van Gogh

Sorrowing Old Man (‘At Eternity’s Gate’) by van Gogh

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: Christ is the humble king of all who are humble. Doctrine: The virtue of humility. Practical application: Growing in humility.

To view Lectionary 100, click here.

Central Idea: Christ is humble king of all who are humble

Reading 1 Zec 9:9-10

Thus says the LORD:
Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion,
shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king shall come to you;
a just savior is he,
meek, and riding on an ass,
on a colt, the foal of an ass.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim,
and the horse from Jerusalem;
the warrior’s bow shall be banished,
and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.
His dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

  • Human saviors arrive in chariots (or tanks or warships or police cars) because with violence they imposes peace and with threats of violence they maintain it.
  • But the just savior, Jesus Christ, can come meekly, riding on a lowly donkey, because he transforms men from within.
  • “Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth” (CCC 559).

Responsorial Psalm Ps 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14

R/ I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God or Alleluia

I will extol you, O my God and King,
and I will bless your name forever and ever.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.

The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.

  • Of all possible rulers, Christ the King is the best because of his good service to mankind.
  • He is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, of great kindness, good to all, compassionate toward all his works, mighty, faithful in his words, and holy in his works, which are glorious.
  • United to him, we will be able to praise his name forever, both because he deserves it and because we will have eternal life.

Reading 2 Rom 8:9, 11-13

Brothers and sisters:
You are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Consequently, brothers and sisters,
we are not debtors to the flesh,
to live according to the flesh.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die,
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body,
you will live.

  • The just savior, Jesus Christ, who transforms men from within, works this transformation through the Spirit, the Spirit of Christ who raised Jesus from the dead.
  • This transformation on Christ’s part comes about through the grace he gives us. This transformation on our part comes from living according to this grace. This means not doing unjust deeds—“the deeds of the body”—which result in death.

Gospel Mt 11:25-30

At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

  • When Christ spoke these words, no one on earth knew the persons of the Blessed Trinity except Christ. But the Son became man so that we might know them.
  • We can know Christ, the just universal king, to whom all things have been handed over by the Father. The requirement is that we become “little ones” as opposed to being among “the wise and the learned.” That is, we must be humble and not claim a wisdom and learning we don’t actually possess. It is scary to be humble and lowly, which is why Christ promises we can trust him. He himself is humble and lowly and yet the King.
  • None of us is burdenless. The good transformation we need from within is also a burden. It is not a burden imposed on us by violence or its threat. Rather, it is an easy and light yoke. That yoke is used by the meek and humble teacher to lead us to rest.

Doctrine: The virtue of humility

  • Our English word humility comes from Latin humilitas meaning abasement, itself from humus or ground.
  • It is the “moral virtue that keeps a person from reaching beyond himself.”
  • Clearly, there are some ways in which it is good to reach beyond oneself, for example, by improving in anything which is good. How can this go wrong? People can have an “unruly desire for personal greatness” which leads to a “love of themselves based on a” false “appreciation of their position with respect to God and their neighbors.” To put it another way, we are always trying to give ourselves a status we don’t actually have, and this is foolish.
  • “Religious humility recognizes one’s total dependence on God.”
  • “[M]oral humility recognizes one’s creaturely equality with others.”
  • Humility is obviously opposed to pride, yet “it is also opposed to immoderate self-abjection, which would fail to recognize God’s gifts and use them according to his will.”[1]

Practical Application: Growing in humility

  • St. Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism, laid down in his famous Rule, twelve steps for a monk to grow in the virtue of humility. Here are a few of them, summarized and adapted for laypersons today.
  • Of course, to apply these also requires the virtue of prudence.
    • Consciously obey all of God’s commandments and whatever you see to be his will.
    • Obediently submit to those persons in authority over you.
    • Endure difficulties without complaining inwardly or outwardly.
    • Confess your sins and faults in the sacrament of Penance.
    • Admit to yourself you are full of faults and not all that special.
    • Restrain yourself from speaking and say only what is necessary.

[1] http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=34023

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