Many Hats and Humility (Luke 18: 9-14)

30th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

For those who know me personally these days, they know that I do a lot of volunteering. A lot. Like, I wear many, many hats. I don’t blog about everything that I do because ironically, I’m too busy doing stuff to blog about doing stuff.
Now, for all the “good” that I do helping out at my church and helping out in my community, it may seem like I am attempting to do a lot of good for my own sake. But, no. I am not trying to earn my way into God’s good graces.
Last Sunday, I had to teach a class on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. I stressed to the students that the reason why Catholics engage in social justice is because we, all of humanity, deserve dignity. And the works of mercy are ways that we can give people that dignity. We are all called to help out the “least of us” as Jesus because helping the least is helping Him. When He was hungry, did I give Him food? When He was thirsty, did I give Him drink? Etc, etc.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.
With great emphasis, I stressed to the students that no matter what good we do, we cannot earn our way into heaven. No hundreds of hours of community service will guarantee a cozy spot in heaven. Yes, I feel like I’ve earned 10 Green Cords (a cord earned for completing 100 volunteer hours at my alma mater), but I know and realize that won’t necessarily get me to where I ultimately desire even though I do (what seems like) a lot.
There needs to be a level of humility whenever I engage in the volunteer work that I do. Humility helps forge our hearts to love God and others more than our selves. It increases our capacity to love because we’re no longer concerned with self, but rather more concerned with the Other. Through humility, I decrease, so that others may increase, and by having others increase, God increases in my life. 
O God, be merciful to me a sinner.
It is through humility that I can recognize my imperfection. I mentioned this the other day how I had a very real moment in silence while driving home from work because I realized I had to change a certain aspect of my life that has been holding me back from being who I am created in the image and likeness of God. I think the root cause of many sins is the (rather deadly) sin of pride. I see that, quite evidently, in today’s Gospel reading with the Pharisee. But yet in the end, it is not he who is held in high regard for he boasts with a sense of pride of his good doings. I often find myself like the Pharisee. “I’m such a pro chaperone!”, “I prayed ALL THE MYSTERIES of the Rosary today!”, “Psh, I don’t use kneelers.” …and the list goes on… But I need to be humble like the tax collector.
See, the temptation of being proud in my good doings is that now the attention and focus is all on myself. This leads to selfishness. And if I am filling myself with only myself, then I have no room for others. And authentic love requires an outpouring of self rather than an inpouring (which apparently that isn’t a word…but you get what I mean). O how many times have I fallen because of my selfishness! How many times have I failed to love others because I only wanted to love me!
I thank you that I am like the rest of humanity.
And so, I have to have humility. I have to arrive at the point to recognize that life isn’t about me. In everything I do–humility. I do not volunteer seemingly professionally for the sake and benefit of myself, but rather, it gives me opportunities to serve others rather than serve myself. The volunteering that I do lets me encounter the rest of my fellow brothers and sisters in humanity…in Christ… so that I can give of myself in love for them. We’re all trying to navigate this world. We’re not perfect. But I, at the very least, can do what I can in order give others dignity and mercy.
I think the easiest way to gain a better understanding of humility is to just stare at a crucifix and pray. Better yet, praying at Adoration with Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. If I’m lucky, both are in my view when praying, lol.  It is here, at the foot of the cross, before the Lord, that it becomes very real and apparent to me that I’m just the created and He is the Creator, that I am just the loved and He is the Lover. I am not perfect, without Him. I am nothing without Him. 
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I decrease. Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
– JD
Man with Many Hats // The Foundry 
This type of blog post inspired by Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse.