Bishop Morneau's Column|
"Reflection on the Readings"
|Bishop Robert Morneau
Humility wins the heart of God
We are greedy and selfish in our quest for places of honor
September 2, 2001, Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. How do we grow in self-knowledge?
2. Why is humility an unpopular virtue?
3. How has the humility of God been revealed?
I recently read a collection of essays by Timothy Radcliffe, OP, the former superior general of the Dominican Order. The book, Sing a New Song: The Christian Vocation, offers some insights regarding the virtue of humility, a central theme in today's
"The deepest truth of our human nature is not that we are greedy
and selfish but that we hunger and thirst for God and in God we
will find each other." (28)
We must face facts! We are greedy and selfish in many ways. We do
seek places of honor at wedding parties and graduation
ceremonies. Pride is alive and well within the human heart. All
of us contend with self-serving interests. Such is life; such is
the fact of sin!
But at a deeper level, we desire to live in the truth of things
(humility) and long to be generous, altruistic people. Our basic
orientation is toward God and the welfare of others, an
orientation that is deeper than our narcissism. As Fr. Radcliffe
points out, there are truths and there are truths, some deeper
than others. The deepest truth is that we are made to God's
likeness and can realize that image through grace and hard work.
"The theologian must be a beggar who knows how to receive the
free gifts of the Lord" (64).
To receive a gift is to be indebted. To receive insights into
faith and to be able to articulate that knowledge is not simply
the work of scholarship. Theologians and philosophers,
psychologists and sociologists, scientists and engineers come
into contact with truth because they have been gifted with good
minds. To become a person of wisdom and compassion we must
realize that God is the main agent of these graces. We are
beggars, totally dependent upon God's gracious love. This
realization should lead to humility.
"Profound self-knowledge reveals not the solitary self of
modernity but the one whose existence is inseparable from the God
who grants us life in every moment" (151).
The God revealed by Jesus is a God not associated with an
untouchable mountain, a blazing fire, gloomy darkness, or a
trumpet blast - so says the letter to the Hebrews. Our God is a
God of love and life. Every moment provides evidence that God
exists. To know ourselves at the deepest levels, to know our
Christian vocation to be agents of God's light, love and life, is
to attain great wisdom.
In today's world, the understanding of the human person - as
someone autonomous and solitary - leads not to self-knowledge but
to ignorance and eventually to despair. We are social creatures
as well as individuals. We are destined to return to God from
whom we came. Our lives are lives of total dependency upon a
gracious and loving Mystery.
Humility is not a popular virtue. It is too brown, lacking in
brilliant colors. It tends to sit at the last table, runs from
the spotlight, blushes with shame for past transgressions. But
humility wins the heart of God and liberates a prideful soul.
A final reflection from Timothy Radcliffe: " ... to tell the
truth is the most beautiful act of charity." (272) And the truth
is that God loves and forgives us in Jesus and through their
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)