Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Practical Humility- kenosis


Hello Ladies,

I've been trying to write this post for a while now. My life has been a bit of a gong show these past few weeks. Normally I would find this very frustrating and behave accordingly.  (Which is to say I would not have behaved well at all.) Luckily for those around me I've given up needless worry for Lent. Things don't get done the way I wanted them to? No big deal. And instead of praying that things pass me by (please, God, don't make me go to that event tomorrow; I'm much too tired!) I pray that God be with me and give me strength and endurance for the challenges ahead. This lent, I'm letting God decide what is important in my life. The rest will take care of itself.

So without further ado, I present this latest post.


I hope that you've noticed that my theology is very practical. If it doesn't work, don't do it. I may suggest praying the rosary or going to mass but I also know that some non-Catholics read this blog and still want content relevant to their spirituality.

You might have also noticed that this blog isn't very systematic. I don't want to write too much because I don't want to be another 'mommy blog'. It's also very difficult to plan anything on three hours of sleep. I might have more mystic encounters but I don't trust them.

I write what is on my heart. If something tells me that an idea is relevant then I write it. So much for scholarly treatises! (They're as much fun to read as they are to write.)

So of course pray the rosary and go to mass. But don't cheapen them by doing it 'by rote because that is what you're supposed to do'. Jesus is calling us into a relationship with Him. So go! Relate!

I might not be systematic but I have hit upon a theme that I find inspiring in my own life: humility. And believe me, Ladies, I'm going to give you practical reasons why humility is a great thing.

These days when people think of humility they think of an unequal relationship. Someone, usually a man, has more control over another, usually a humble woman. In this case humility becomes a feminine virtue and in this way the unequal relationship is perpetuated. Which is exactly what Jesus was against! (Meaning Jesus is against any form of unequal relationship.) Yet we are called to be humble to be closer to God. So what gives??

Okay, ANY relationship with God is bound to be unbalanced in God's favor. Obviously. So it's a good thing we follow a humble God.

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any  compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-11

We're weak humans. We think that thinking of others first is degrading. Jesus is God and he died on the cross for us. [Enter humble pause here.]

Yet Jesus was also human. So what did he do? He emptied himself. He took the form of a slave. And did God leave Him there? No. God made Jesus greater than Jesus could have ever accomplished on his own if he had selfishly guarded his human vanities.  God did not leave Jesus empty and He does not want to leave us empty, either. This relationship, this self-emptying and being filled by God, has a very profound term: kenosis. Or, if you're Jesus, Kenosis. It is a great mystery upon which the relationship of the Trinity rests. And we are called to be a part of it. (And you won't have to write a 30 page paper to be a part of it either. Lucky you.)

So here is a profound truth of Christianity. 

But let's start with humility. At an earlier post I said that we are called to be humble before God - not man. I really like this definition. But then I heard theologian, Jeff Cavins, define humility as knowing your own limitations and who you are in relationship to God and others and being okay with that.  Once again humility is taken out of an unequal context and is now the empowerment of self-knowledge and the surety of God's love.

How does one become humble? By praying and practice. Practicing humility can be as simple as truly listening to what another has to say. This means NOT thinking of your next words while another is talking. This is such an important skill that there is even a term for it: active listening. However you chose to practice humility you will notice an immediate change in your life and your prayer life. Let me give an example.

This year I gave up undue worrying for Lent. Why? Because I found that this is one of the major stumbling blocks that I put up between me, God, and the rest of the world. Why do I worry? For the illusion of control over my life. What do I seek to control? What others think of me. Is there any way I can control this? Not really.

So what are some of the practical changes I've noticed?  People think I'm wiser because I'm less likely to interject with really stupid comments. Am I wiser? No. But at least I don't look like a total idiot.

I'm becoming more compassionate. Why? Because I'm taking the time to listen to what people have to say instead of making snap judgments.

I am also less likely to worry about what other people are saying or thinking about me because the world is becoming a less dangerous place. They're not out to hurt me. They're probably not thinking about me at all. They're just trying to get through their own day.

There is less drama in my life because I'm not creating the drama. Outbursts with my husband last only a few minutes instead of a few hours because I have faith in our shared love instead of having to be right. This works out better for the whole family. (If my husband reads this and disagrees then he has no idea what goes on in my head sometimes! Sometimes ignorance is truly bliss.)

But, you might say, I've prayed about this humility thing (or something else) and I still don't get it! Well, let's talk about prayer for a minute because we won't get very far without it.

Everything we have comes from God. If we are called to God it is because God has called us first. And God is faithful to us in all things. So why don't we always get what we want?

What is prayer? Prayer is entering into a relationship with God. Many of us, myself included, treat Jesus like Santa Claus. When we do talk to Him we tell him all of our wants. Maybe they're good wants: world peace, meaningful work, conversion of souls. But how do you relate to somebody who just asks for things all the time? Would you put up with that from your spouse? Your beloved? Probably not. You would probably walk away muttering terms like 'need healthy boundaries' and 'not enabling'. You get the idea. So why do we treat Jesus this way? Or we could look at it another way. Here is a conversation I had recently with my son:

Son: Mama, can I have some candy? Please?
Me: No.
S (whining): But why not? I asked nicely.
M: You did ask nicely. But candy has lots of sugar and it's bed time. You won't be able to sleep with      all that sugar and besides, you've already brushed your teeth. I love you. Go to bed.
S: But candy is good and you want good things for me. You love me and want me to be happy!!!
M: I love you too much to argue with you about this. Good night.
S: You're mean! I don't want to talk to you any more!

I walked away thinking that this is how I pray! How does Jesus put up with me?

Now I am much more careful how I pray and what I pray for. My prayers begin with praise and gratitude. Then I ask the Spirit to guide me in my prayers. I am aware (or more aware) of the mercy that God has continually bestowed me in my life. I use the life of Jesus as a model for my life. Or I'm trying to anyway.

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Humility is a wonderful thing because humility is God-like. The only way to transcend the hollow and painful cares of this world is to become more like Jesus. The only way to become more like Jesus is to spend time with Him. Yes, pray the rosary. Yes, go to mass. Yes, read (nay, PRAY) the bible. Listen. You will find peace. You will see an immediate, practical improvement in your life. But be willing to change. Be willing to let go of things that just aren't that important. Do what is important with great love. Go, beloved child of a faithful God. Go, love your children. Help them grow and change. Lead them by your example and steadfastness. Find the peace that only God can give and bless your children with your faith. It is the best, most practical legacy you can bestow.

God Bless.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Path to Humility - in God's Arms

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, "Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you,whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it." Luke 18: 15-17

Ladies, imagine, if you can, a newborn child in the arms of his or her mother. Imagine that this child has been fed, is clean, warm, and content. Imagine what it must be like for this child who only feels love and security. There is no loneliness because there is no separation. There is no self-consciousness because there is no sense of shame. There is no selfishness because there is no sense of self. The child lives in a state of bliss, only aware of needs being met and the feeling of love and acceptance. This is a child in the arms of his or her mother.

Now imagine how much more God loves this child, how much more God can provide.

Now imagine that you are the child in God's arms.

So we are invited to be if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Think this doesn't apply to you? Then listen to this:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you. O you of little faith? So do not worry and say 'What are we to eat' or ' What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek you first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. Matthew 6: 25-34

It is pretty clear that God loves us and wants to take care of us. We are the ones worrying. We are the ones who are putting up barriers between us and God. We of so little faith!

This is the starting point of humility.

Why do we care what others say about us? We are in God's arms.
Why do look down on others? We are in God's arms.
Why do we belittle ourselves? We are in God's arms.
What do we have to prove? We are in God's arms.

This is the truth of our existence. And this is what we must remember if we are to enter the kingdom of God.

How do we maintain this peace of mind? Through prayer and practice (and practicing prayer). The idea is not to destroy our passions but place our passions at God's disposal.

We need not fear who we are. God created us. We are in God's arms.

Now that you have a starting place to humility, read and pray the Litany of Humility. It will be challenging. But notice, too, how less frightening it is when we know God's love for us.

Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, 
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled...
From the desire of being honored...
From the desire of being praised...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted...
From the desire of being approved...
From the fear of being humiliated...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes...
From the fear of being calumniated...
From the fear of being forgotten...
From the fear of being ridiculed...
From the fear of being wronged...
From the fear of being suspected...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I...
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease...
That others may be chosen and I set aside...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should...

-Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930)

How much more liberating life is when God is in control. How much easier life is when you can just be yourself and not have to perform to the expectations of others. You are already loved and accepted. You are already strong in Jesus. Your debts have already been payed. Now listen to God. Do His will. You are loved. You are complete. You are in God's arms. Now be His hands.

May God Bless You!