Saturday, August 23, 2014

Whoever Humbles Himself

Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

The voice said to me:  Son of man, this is where my throne shall be, this is where I will set the soles of my feet; here I will dwell among the children of Israel forever.  Ezekiel 43:7AB

“The greatest among you must be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”  Matthew 23:11-12

A great way to pray is to look for God’s presence in your life. More than 400 years ago, St. Ignatius Loyola encouraged prayer-filled mindfulness by proposing what has been called the Daily Examen. The Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and to discern his direction for us. Try this version of St. Ignatius’s prayer. - See more at:

Whose glory is all this about?  If the reading from Ezekiel did not make the glory of the Lord, not the people, abundantly clear, Jesus knocks down anyone – especially the Pharisees – who may exhibit an attitude of moral superiority.  Practice what you preach and stop fishing for praise and recognition for every action you take.    

Jesus is pretty clear in denouncing the abuses of the scribes and Pharisees.  In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus forbids not only the titles but the spirit of superiority and pride that is shown by their acceptance.[1]  He goes on to a series of seven “woes” which further point out practices which must be avoided.

Ascent toward heaven “is made through the humility of this present life,” not through the kinds of actions Jesus condemns in the Pharisees.  The Rule of St. Benedict prescribes twelve degrees of humility for his brothers and sisters.  By taking on such practices, the Rule explains the end result obtained in walking these humble steps:
Having climbed all these steps of humility, therefore, the monk will presently come to that perfect love of God which casts out fear.  And all those precepts which formerly he had not observed without fear, he will now begin to keep by reason of that love, without any effort, as though naturally and by habit.  No longer will his motive be the fear of hell, but rather the love of Christ, good habit and delight in the virtues which the Lord will deign to show forth by the Holy Spirit in His servant now cleansed from vice and sin. (RB: Chapter 7)

This exhortation in Matthew is not about “them.”  It’s about us.  It’s about me.  If we take these words to heart, how should we look at and evaluate our own conduct and attitudes? There are many examples of how to do that in prayer resources but the Jesuit Examen (one version here: provides substantive steps.

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