A MEEK AND HUMBLE HEART
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a
Luke 14:1, 7-14
The overarching theme found in Sunday’s readings is humility. The virtue of humility, sagely defined by C.S. Lewis, “is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” As we hear Jesus’ words in the Gospel, this is precisely what we are invited to do by allowing space at the head of the table for others to be honored above ourselves. Jesus lived the ultimate example of humility — incarnate, reliant on Mary and Joseph as an infant and child, handing himself over to be crucified, and now allowing himself to be consumed by the faithful daily, in the guise of bread and wine in the Eucharist.
For over ten years, Deacon Jerry Ryan started our spiritual direction meetings with the words, “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.” A simple yet profound prayer seeking to have a heart so humble, loving, merciful, and precious as to resemble the heart of Jesus. I remember thinking how it felt almost hypocritical to pray for meekness and humility with the bold confidence the deacon possessed, yet, at the same time, knowing this is exactly how we are to approach our Lord. Deacon Jerry quietly lived this prayer with a simple resolve, a vow to the Lord to say yes to whoever came seeking his assistance. Perhaps this is how this kind, elderly man became my spiritual father and guide for over a decade. Accepting my awkward, albeit desperate, request to help me navigate my relationship with Jesus. Even as he battled the end stages of cancer, he insisted we keep our meetings to ensure I continued my faith journey.
Ordained to serve, his vocation consisted of much more, as he taught by his faithful example what it meant to embrace a meek and humble heart. He taught me that every human is called to this disposition of the heart. I could never repay Deacon Jerry for all he did for me, and he never wanted to be compensated other than by my promise to share with others all he taught me, so the gift of faith bestowed on us by Christ would abide in more hearts. Deacon Jerry referred to himself as a hammer for the Lord. Lying on the tool bench until the Master required him to complete the task before him. When complete, returned to the bench, content to wait until Jesus called upon him again. Other times, he thought of himself as a somewhat lazy albeit faithful beagle. Lying at the feet of the Master, eyes always upon Him, at peace, watching, waiting, and ready when beckoned into service.
A meek and humble heart resembles Jesus best when it serves those least able to offer any benefit back for the good they receive — when we possess a heart not only open to the will of the Father but also docile and prepared to be obedient to what He asks of us. This exchange is mirrored in the vast gifts and blessings showered on us from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for which there is no adequate remuneration. The reward will be great in heaven, for those who give without expecting anything in return will be “blessed indeed … because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14).