Daily Reflection
June 12th, 2001
Tom Shanahan, S.J.
Rector, Jesuit Community
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Second Corinthians 1:18-22
Psalms 119:129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 135
Matthew 5:13-16

I read the gospel today and I am challenged.  Jesus says to his disciples, ďYou are the salt of the earth....  You are the light of the world....  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.Ē  He goes on to say that people donít light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket.  The challenge as I see it, comes from a sense of humility that many of us were taught in our youth.  The truth is that we were all probably taught only HALF of what humility really is Ė we get the down side of it, but we donít get the up side of humility.  

Speaking of truth, thatís what humility is anyway.  Spiritual writers throughout the centuries have defined humility as the truth.  By that they meant the truth that we humans are creatures and God is creator.  Now that sounds logical enough when itís put that way, but in truth we really donít want to accept the fact that we are creatures.  As creatures, we are flawed; we fail; we sin; we mess up; we are anything but perfect.  But thereís something about being a human creature that makes all that seem too hard to accept.  Ultimately, we donít want to let God be God, but we want to be the gods.

Getting back to humility, then, we are called to recognize and to accept the honest truth about ourselves and to love and to rejoice in that truth.  We do fail, sin, mess up, but God still loves us, and both sides of that equation are what make up the whole truth about humility.  Thatís what I believe Jesus is saying to the disciples today in the gospel reading.

You ARE the salt; you ARE the light.  Receive that fact and live accordingly.  For us who have a half-baked notion of humility, that first part is hard to hear.  Real humility (or as the medieval author of the Cloud of Unknowing puts it, perfect humility) is precisely the realization that we have been incredibly blessed in our lives by a God who loves us in a prodigal way; and, that we are not perfect, but quite imperfect.

So the perfect humility we are invited to foster is simply the realization of both truths involved:  we are blessed (by a wonderful Creator) and we are, at the same time, dust and ashes (creatures).  How do we live out this perfect humility?  First by receiving with deep gratitude the love of God showered on us so liberally.  Second, actively entering into the process of our ongoing conversion towards that Good God.

We can truly (therefore humbly) say that we are salt and light, all the while knowing that we fail and are anything but perfect.  The only perfection we have is located in the perfectly loving God who loves, saves and forgives us.  As we strive for humility, we simultaneously acknowledge Godís goodness towards us and deal effectively with our failings by opening ourselves to His forgiveness and mercy. 


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