In this week’s Gospel, the disciples quarrel with each other as they travel along the road to Capernaum, arguing over who is the greatest among them. Although Jesus continues to teach them about His coming Passion and Death, the disciples do not understand what He is telling them and they are afraid to ask Him about it. Instead, they cling to their ideas of a future earthly kingdom and dream of the glory that they are sure lies ahead.
Jesus, however, offers a different model of the future ‘kingdom’, one in which the goal is not power, wealth, and domination, but instead embodies an attitude of humility and service, of caring for those who are the most vulnerable and needy. “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). Jesus set an example of leadership and authority that does not seek greatness and glory, but calls instead for humility and self-sacrifice.
Humility is a virtue that is rooted in our love and concern for others. It is a call to selflessness, to maturity, and to strength of character. Humility asks us to turn our attention away from ourselves and toward those around us, to love God in others, to be of service to them. It is a virtue that calls us to live in truth, to see ourselves as we really are, acknowledging that every good thing that we have and all that we are is a gift from God, our Father and Creator. In his classic book, Humility of Heart, Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo writes, “The essence of humility consists in knowing how to discern rightly that which is mine and that which belongs to God. All the good I do comes from God, and nothing belongs to me but my own nothingness.”1 Humility asks us to think less of ourselves and to be grateful for the gifts that God has given us. In sharing our gifts with others, we are only giving back to Him what has freely been given to us.
1Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo, Humility of Heart (First published c. 1905; reprint Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 2006), 95.
– Sharon van der Sloot