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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | True humility means recognizing the source of our gifts and putting them to use

Pride and false humility are opposed to the notion of humility, as illustrated by Jesus and others

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Many elements of the readings this week, and many elements of the Christian life, converge on the notion of humility. So it’s important to understand what humility means and what it doesn’t mean.

Most people know that humility is opposed to pride; few realize that it’s also opposed to false humility, and what that means for being a disciple of Jesus.

Pride claims that the talents we have come from ourselves; humility knows that we have them as gifts from God. False humility claims that we don’t have any gifts at all; true humility knows that we have been given gifts, and we put them to use in the service of God and neighbor. Someone filled with pride becomes pompous; the gifts are there, but everyone suffers from how they carry those gifts. Someone filled with false humility denies the existence of their gifts; the gifts are there, but everyone suffers from their failure to put them to use.

We celebrate the feast of St. Mark on April 25, and he’s a good example of humility. He was a companion of St. Paul and St. Barnabas in the early missionary travels of the Church. He was a disciple of St. Peter in Rome at the Church’s very beginnings — tradition tells us that St. Mark’s Gospel was based on the preaching of Peter in Rome. St. Mark wasn’t puffed up with pride because of his position in the early Church, and he didn’t hide his gifts in false humility. Rather, he honed his gifts and let God put them to work. Then his gifts became a gift to the Church in his action-packed Gospel.

Jesus is a great example of humility in this sense, too. Everything Jesus has is something He received from the Father. Jesus constantly confesses that! And He puts all that He has at the service of others — all His gifts, His very life. There’s no pride in Jesus — as if He were, Himself, the source of the gifts. There’s no false humility in Jesus, either — as though He didn’t have the gifts. Jesus constantly gives thanks to the Father for His gifts, and constantly and completely puts them to work for our salvation. His gifts become a gift to us.

In Acts chapter 4 we hear about the life of the early Church. Community members put all their possessions at the service of the Church: “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own.” Barnabas, for example, “sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles.”

It’s easy for us to apply this lesson to money. But what if we also apply it to our talents and charisms? Our talents and charisms are God’s gift to us. But they’re not only God’s gift to us. They were also meant to be a gift God gives to others through us. So it’s important that we hold them with the right attitude — with humility — not claiming them as our own, and not hiding them, either, but putting them to work to build up God’s kingdom. Our gifts, too, were meant to be a gift to the Church.

May we all be clothed in humility that helps us recognize our gifts and put them to use.

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