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December 3, 2018 - Humility

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest

Scripture Readings

My maternal grandmother lived to the age of 103. She was the daughter of German immigrants and grew up on a farm in St. Henry, Ohio in the early years of the 20th century During the last couple of years of her life, despite many days of confusion and disorientation, she continued to pray the rosary each day and took Communion as often as possible. One of the things I remember is that no matter whether she was attending Mass or receiving Communion from her bed, she always said, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, only say the word and I shall be healed.” Even through all those years before the Liturgy was changed, she continued to say these words. She was not protesting or ignoring the changes in the Mass, it was just that she was used to saying this and meant it from the depths of her heart. So it is not surprising that today’s Gospel passage always reminds me of her. My Grandmother had her moments of being “frisky” and had no trouble sticking up for herself, but when it came to prayers and Mass and her devotions, she was completely serious. When it came to faith and her spiritual life, she knew who she was in the sight of God. She was a perfect example of living in humility.

In the verses from today’s Gospel, Luke relates the encounter between Jesus and the Centurion. Luke’s words echo our own verbal response to the invitation to share in communion: "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant (I) will be healed." St. Luke writes that Jesus ‘was amazed’ at the faith of the centurion. He even remarks to those following him, "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith." The Centurion's faith is amazing for sure but just as amazing is his humility. The Centurion was a man who wielded power over others, including soldiers and slaves, yet somehow knew who he was in the 'big scheme' of things and held no reservations in saying he was unworthy. And, necessarily, this humility precedes and accompanies deep and abiding faith in God.

Acknowledging God is the Creator and we are God's creatures sounds easy. Living out of this fundamental truth is another matter. It requires a healthy self-knowledge and an ongoing willingness to live in complete dependence upon God. My Grandmother lived her life firmly based in this truth. I appreciate the memory of her each time I hear or say the words of the Centurion. I also hope I always see this memory as an invitation to pray for and practice the virtue of humility.

Gail Lyman