Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Our Attitude Must Be Meek and Humble

In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus tells His followers, “You are the salt of the earth….You are the light of the world….your light must shine before others.”

It seems that Jesus is saying Christians must stand out. Christians must be noticeable. Each and every Christian must be so outstanding and so spectacular and so influential that other people will immediately see there is something special about us. And because our faith in the Lord makes us so interesting and alluring, these other people will be compelled to put their faith in the Lord also.
Um, sure. That sounds like a great plan.

Or maybe we’ll be a bit more effective if we follow St. Paul’s teaching in this week’s second reading. In a letter to the church he founded in Corinth, Paul explains that when he first came to that city with the Good News of the Gospel, he came with a meek and humble attitude. Paul writes, “I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom.”

In other words, Paul did not try to attract people to the Christian faith by showing off how smart and talented he was. And we know from Scripture that Paul was in fact very smart and talented, and a dynamic public speaker. Instead, Paul was humble. He freely admitted how sinful and weak he was. He explained in detail how the Lord had rescued him from sin and death.

Paul did not try to draw attention to himself. He knew he was just the messenger. His mission was to draw attention to God. Paul very easily could have put the focus on himself and developed a cult-like following. But he knew that was the exact opposite of what God wanted. Just as John the Baptist did, Paul ignored himself and aimed the spotlight onto the true star of the show: Jesus Christ.
In one of St. Paul’s other letters, the epistle to the Ephesians, he explains: “For by grace you have been saved through faith…it is not from works, so that no one may boast.”

If we are truly Christians, we must be thankful and grateful and humble about it, not proud and arrogant and boastful, as if it were something we accomplished on our own. Humility and meekness and overflowing gratitude must be the hallmarks of our attitude about our faith.

And by the way, Jesus doesn’t actually tell us in this week’s gospel reading to be flashy and flamboyant and thereby draw others to the faith because of our own personal attractiveness and accomplishments. It’s true that Jesus says, “Your light must shine before others,” but the rest of that sentence is, “…that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” The focus, as always, is on the Lord and not on us.

Yes indeed, there’s no doubt about it: Jesus commands us this week to do something that will attract others to the faith. But the things we need to do must not be designed to draw attention to ourselves. They must be designed to draw attention to God. As Jesus says, we must do good deeds—in other words, serve others, not ourselves—and as Paul explains, we must do these good deeds with an attitude of humility and weakness.
If we remember that we are just the messengers, not the star of the show—and in some cases we are prime examples of how the Lord can rescue pitiful wretches from the clutches of sin and death—then others who need to hear the Good News of the Gospel will be drawn to a saving faith in Jesus. Not by how wonderful we are, but the exact opposite: by how thoroughly unimpressive and humble we are.

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