Tuesday, February 23 ~ Second Week in the Season of Lent
Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr
Holy Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12 Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Meditation: Jesus appears to be warning both his disciples and the religious leaders about the temptation to seek titles and honors to increase one’s reputation and admiration by others. Sacred scripture gives ample warning about the danger of self-seeking pride: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:24). Respect for God and his ways inclines us to Godly humility and simplicity of heart. What is true humility and why should we embrace it? True humility is not feeling bad about yourself, or having a low opinion of yourself, or thinking of yourself as inferior to others. True humility frees us from preoccupation with ourselves, whereas a low self-opinion tends to focus our attention on ourselves. Humility is truth in self-understanding and truth in action. Viewing ourselves truthfully, with sober judgment, means seeing ourselves the way God sees us (Psalm 139:1-4). A humble person makes a realistic assessment of oneself without illusion or pretense to be something one is not. A truly humble person regards oneself neither smaller nor larger than one truly is. True humility frees us to be ourselves as God sees us and to avoid despair and pride. A humble person does not want to wear a mask or put on a facade in order to look good to others. Such a person is not swayed by accidentals, such as fame, reputation, success, or failure. Do you know the joy of Christ-like humility and simplicity of heart?
Prayer: God of all creation, who were pleased to give the Bishop Saint Polycarp a place in the company of the Martyrs, grant, through his intercession, that sharing with him in the chalice of Christ, we may rise through the Holy Spirit to eternal life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Contemplation: Notice how humility serves as the foundation of all the other virtues because humility enables us to see the way that God sees. Humility opens our minds and hearts so that each of us can acquire true knowledge, wisdom, and an honest view of reality. Humility directs our energy, zeal, and ambition to give ourselves to something greater than ourselves. Humility frees us to love and serve others selflessly, for their sake, rather than our own. Humility understands our need for help from God, as often as necessary, as part of our having a relationship with God. As Saint John Climacus wrote: “When one understands the need of God’s help, he is driven to prayer and the force of that prayer makes for humility of heart. Anyone, in fact, who does not feel this need and does not ask for help, is not humble.”