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Fourth Week of Ordinary Time – Cycle A

29 January 2011

Reflecting on Matthew 5:1-12a

I’ve experienced the blessing of being poor in spirit several times.  There was the day I sang a whole wedding Mass with the back of my skirt hooked on to my pantyhose.  Or the time I chose a lovely silk smock from the hanger at the hair salon, and as the stylist was putting my head in the water an exceptionally kind older woman touched me on the shoulder and said, “Honey, I think you’re wearing my blouse.”

I could do this all day.  My life is a series of horrible moments that have brought me this self-revelation: I am just faking it here.

And that’s the blessing.  The kingdom of God is just this: a deep and joyful awareness that God is God, and I’m not.  Scripture scholar Reginald Fuller said, after studying today’s reading from Zephaniah and the Gospel’s Beatitudes, “on the day of the Lord the only ground of security is humility.”  Not self-hate.  Not breast-beating.  Just the awareness that, at any moment, the world will see that We are just faking it here. But God upholds us and strengthens us.

Try to bring back an embarrassing experience.  Hold it.  Let it take your breath away again.  Bow your head under its terrible weight.  And now wrap it around you as a warm coat, a safeguard against the cold winds of assurance, arrogance, superiority, dominance.  And let the blessing warm you like a peppermint schnapps’ by the fire.  God is God and you aren’t.  Whew.  What a huge relief.   What a burden lifted.  What a blessing.

In what ways has a humbling experience blessed you?

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Ordinary Time - Cycle A

8 Comments to “Fourth Week of Ordinary Time – Cycle A”

  1. Well, Kathy, if you’re “just faking it here,” what hope is there for the rest of us?

    Rather than seeing it as “faking,” I prefer to believe that we are all just on the way — the same as the original 12 disciples. Look at the mistakes of St. Peter and gain courage and hope!

    Lately, when people ask me how I am, I’ve begun to reply, “On my way to perfect!” Aren’t we all supposed to be working toward that? Not that we are, by any means, but, as one of my favorite priests used to say, “perfect” means “on target.”

  2. Oh Kathy, my friend… You hit the nail on the head for me and my life. For me, the way to be closer to the Divine is through utter humility, which is sometimes utter humiliation. It’s really letting go of all the stuff I use to define myself and my life, trying to stand naked in front of God. And when I get a bit too confident that I’m in control, I am humbled by the world around me and reminded that I really don’t know very much at all. The mantra that helps me so very much is the one you quote (and which I learned from you!), “God is God and I’m not.” Wow! What a relief that is… I don’t have to be God, or like God, or aim for perfection. I get to just be me, in front of our Living God. And when things get too hard or scary, I close my eyes and humbly fall backwards into the arms of God ~ my Mother, my Father, my Everything.
    Thank you for sharing your humility and your light with all of us!

  3. A humbling experience? Let me count the ways, the times, and the blessings! I once ran over a friend’s foot while I was showing off my “perfect” parallel parking skills! God was with me then and continues to remind me that all of my joys and mistakes have his name and not mine on them. While I was the one running over the foot, God was teaching and watching and stregthening me for the many many mistakes to come.
    Faking it explains why I still have problems remembering that it is God and not me who should be taking the bows and the applause for the many wonderful things in my life. As for the mistakes…they give me courage to ask for God’s help thus realizing that is only through true humility that I can embrace God’s presence in my life…

  4. Karen,

    We will all be perfect someday in heaven. While we’re here, we are responsible for being headed in that direction to the best of our ability. That’s what I meant about “being on target.”

  5. I am about as graceful as a bull in a china shop! To share my many mishaps would like watching the really old slap stick shows. I learned long ago that if we take ourselves too suriously we cry a lot. What comforts me is that no matter the way the moment make our mistakes look huge, the sun will rise on another day and all will forget in time. And in time when we remember we may even laugh! God is a God of freedom, we have free will, He forces nothing on us and He opens our eyes to our imperfections so that we might remember and have compassion on one and another. I am perfectly imperfect and He loves me as He watches my struggles and blunders.

  6. Okay everybody, you’ve probably already guessed. Yes, OF COURSE I was the hapless kid standing in the street a week before high school graduation, looking the other way while Mame ran over my foot in front of everybody.

    Add that one to the list. And Mame, I’ve long ago forgiven you and I’m so glad you’ve joined our conversatio. You have riches to share.


  7. Kathy, you’ve started a powerful discussion. What a great way to talk about the blessings of humility. Thank you, Everyone, for the profound insights.
    I’ve been writing a lot about losing my job. It happened without any warning so I spent what seems like forever grieving. It was a humiliating experience especially when some people interpreted what happened as my being fired. For financial reasons, the position was terminated which puts a different slant on it. Still, I was out of work and feeling miserable with low self-esteem and a loss of self-worth. The longer I was unemployed, the more often someone asked me if I found a job, the more humiliated I felt.
    I have to say that for me there is a difference between humiliation and humility. The former seems to be something that happens to me from the outside. The latter is an interior disposition, an acceptance of what is true. When I changed my response to “I’m between jobs,” I felt humility rather than humiliation. It was an inner experience that allowed me to face the truth of what was.
    Now I’m employed, but being new to the job means there’s a learning curve and I make plenty of mistakes. Being a “perfectionist” I have to accept the fact that I will learn. When someone calls attention to one of my errors, I make it a point to say thank you. This is humility, accepting my gifts and limitations. The experience of losing a job and being unemployed as well as working in a position where my best gifts and talents aren’t used, teaches me both gratitude and humility, which I believe are linked. Humility teaches me that I cannot do any of this myself. It shows me how easily I can become too proud of the things I do or am able to achieve. It’s very freeing to recognize how powerful God is and how dependence on God’s providence partnered with my cooperation, leads me to the fullness of life.
    I can remember thinking that my position was secure. “This can never happen to me because I am needed.” Well, I’ve learned that I am not indispensable and that God sometimes takes us from our “good work” to teach us that we are community, dependent on God and interdependent on each other. It hurts but there is also healing in the process. The blessing is in the gift of work, the acceptance of who I am and a grateful attitude.

  8. Yes, I have been “in between jobs” and it’s a great lesson to see the “other side.” To earn the minimum wage, to work with ex-convicts, to be supervised by high school graduates, to make errors on the dispatching machine, to negotiate with cut-down working hours, etc. etc….It’s good to be with that side of humanity. – – Cris

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