During this Lenten season we find ourselves amid a new shared adversity that most of us have never faced before. If you’re like me, you’re filled with fears, anxieties, and questions. Why did this have to happen? How long will it last? Will my family be ok? What are you doing, Lord?
In times like this I have to remind myself: God has a plan for each one of us and His plan is good. It tells us that right in the first paragraph of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). Paragraph #1 says, “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.” God made us to share in His own blessed life. Think about that for a minute, that’s amazing! He wants to share His divine life with us by filling us with Himself, His Holy Spirit. He wants us to be close to Him during our lifetime and then He wants us to live with Him in heaven forever.
If God has a plan for us, and His plan is always one of sheer goodness, how can all this hardship help us grow in humility and perhaps some other virtues like patience and trust?
Humility is one of those words that we don’t like to talk about in our secular culture. We think perhaps that it means having low self-esteem, having to refuse any kind of compliment, denying our gifts and talents, being a pushover or not having a backbone to stand up for what’s right. But, humility is none of those things. In humility, we acknowledge that our goodness and worth come from being a child of God and not from our own personal accomplishments. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that humility is about recognizing the truth about ourselves, which means recognizing both our limitations and our gifts. As we go along in life, we can sometimes forget that everything we have and all the talents we exhibit are all gifts from God. He gives them to us specifically to further the Kingdom of God and to give Him glory. That’s a part of His plan of sheer goodness.
If we view the disruption in our travel plans, our schedules, our dining out habits, our ability to come to Mass, our work, and even our grocery shopping as something that God ultimately intends for our good, then we can approach it differently. Begin with prayer and ask God to help you grow in the virtue of humility and other virtues. There’s no other way to do this, no other place to begin but in prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit: What can I learn from this situation and how can I grow in humility, patience, kindness, trust? Jesus tells us right in Sacred Scripture in Mathew 7:7 that when we ask, it will be given to us, so ask. If you’re having trouble quieting yourself enough to have this conversation with God, start with the Litany of Humility. It’s a powerful prayer that will put your heart in the right place.
Next, accept humbling experiences. Maybe you find yourself on an important conference call for work while your children are home and screaming, and the dog is barking. Accept that humiliation and don’t make excuses about having to work remotely right now. If you are in a long line waiting to buy that much-sought-after toilet paper and you are thinking about what a waste of time it is and how you have so many better things to do, thank God instead for the fact that you were able to find that toilet paper in the first place. If that grocery store line is long, use the wait time to make an examination of conscience and see if a little bit of pride (“I have so many better things to do”) has snuck into your life elsewhere. Did you have something better to do than come to Sunday Mass, or to listen to a person who might be suffering from loneliness, or spend time playing Chutes and Ladders for the tenth time with your toddler?
Humility also involves being obedient to legitimate superiors, in our government, in our church, and in our homes. Romans 13:1 tells us “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God.” In humility then, we can submit ourselves to the request to avoid large gatherings and to stay home as much as possible. We can make this obedience an act of humility by following these guidelines – even when we disagree with them or think they shouldn’t apply to us..
As an almost daily communicant, I am truly struggling with the suspension of all public Mass. The moment I read the press release, I cried, and my heart pined to receive Jesus in the Eucharist right then and there. Perhaps God is giving me a chance to grow in humility through this adversity. Am I less than humble in my own perceived piety in coming to daily Mass? Perhaps this is my opportunity to truly unite my longing for Jesus with those who can never celebrate the Mass without fear of being killed or persecuted in some way. How bad do we really have it when we can’t find toilet paper or must stay home a few weeks, when others are forced to go months and even years without Jesus in Holy Communion?
So, let’s look at these adversities we face together as a chance to grow in humility, a chance to spend time with family, a chance to rely on God, a chance to read more of Sacred Scripture, and a chance to add more prayer to our daily lives. All these opportunities await us as we commit to meditating on the greatness of God, His plan for sheer goodness, and our complete reliance on Him.