I was recently teaching catechism, where I asked, “What is the purpose of man?” One of my students raised her hand and confidently answered, “To be successful!” Naturally, I asked her a follow-up question, “who decides what success is? And I added to her puzzlement, “Look at Christ on the cross. Is that a rich man? Is that a man being honored? A man whose body is in the best physical condition? Is He powerful by the world’s standards? Jesus, who is nailed to that cross, is arguably the most successful man.” I told the class, “Don’t get me wrong. I get it. The desire and purpose of man is happiness or better-termed felicity. But how do we find felicity? The only way to find lasting peace from perfect happiness is God.”
The Baltimore Catechism answers the question this way:
What must we do to gain the happiness of heaven?
To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world.
Our first reading today comes from the Prophet Amos. It is a striking text admonishing a group of Israelites exploiting the poor in their community. Of course, this is the lesson of the world, do whatever it takes to get ahead, even if that means leaving your friends in the dust. The Prophet makes known the gravity of the offense “The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!”
While the Lord, through the prophet, judges those who exploit the poor, the responsorial Psalm underscores God’s love for the lowly, exclaiming, “Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.” One of the emphases of the Vatican II council, as explained in the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church Lumen Gentium, is the universal call to holiness—the lifting of the lowly by God’s grace to the divine life. The Fathers of the council wrote, “all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity.”
A mark of striving to live a life of holiness, or rather: to know, to love, and to serve God, for a Christian is cultivating the virtue of humility. So, what is humility? The virtue of humility is the understanding of one’s lowliness and defects in which one humbly submits to the will of God and gives thanks and praise for the gifts bestowed upon them. Humility is the foundation of the spiritual edifice removing obstacles to faith.In the gospel reading today, our Lord teaches us:
“No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and mammon."
How does this relate to the other readings? Is it strictly a lesson on economics and ethical treatment of the materially poor? There’s something deeper here. Let’s put it into the perspective of the spiritual life and living the life of holiness. The Vatican II council fathers write, “Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity.”
Everything we have been given is a gift—everything. We have been given without cost, and the Lord’s will is that we give without cost. If we put our ambitions and goals above that of the lowly, the Lord will not forget it because we have chosen to serve mammon, not God.
Let us pray for the grace to strive toward the lowly path—the path towards God.
Catholic Church, “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium,” in Vatican II Documents (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011).
Humility. CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Humility. (n.d.). Retrieved September 17, 2022, from https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07543b.htm
Thank you Phillip, I found your article much needed today and I will be reflecting on the importance of Humility in my own life.
How does one become selfless,when all throughout my youth I was taught,"Make your own way",and "Be No. 1"
I think was we mature and develope in our faith,we must unlearn what the American culture has taught us,and more be governed by the Word of God,which for a long time,went against my grain or my natural flesh.But,as I grow older into my senior years,your own will,pride and desires become less inmportant.We,as mature Christians,must put the other person first,or think of other people before ourselves!