The following is by Father Valentine Young, OFM, a faithful Catholic priest who died on 17 January 2020. It was delivered sometime between 2013 and 2020. To learn more about Father Valentine, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
HEN WE FRANCISCANS were novices at St. Anthony Friary on Colerain Ave in Cincinnati, OH, we used to go to two Masses each day: one at 6:00AM and one at 8:00AM. The 6:00AM was a Low Mass; the 8:00AM was a High Mass. On Sundays, the priests did not usually preach at the 6:00AM Mass, because very few people from the outside attended that Mass. He would, however, read the Epistle and Gospel in English for the few attending. On this particular Sunday, the priest himself may have been particularly tired because he ended the Gospel by saying: “But he who humbles himself shall be exhausted.” Now that caused us novices even to smile a bit. I don’t know if good Fr. John de Deo, who was celebrating that Mass was ever made aware of his faux pas or not.
Teaching humility: One of Jesus’ main purpose in telling this story or parable was to teach us to practice humility. And Jesus chose one of the most difficult parts of practicing humility: the ability—or shall I say “the guts”—to admit that one has done something wrong. It takes humility to be willing and able to admit: “I have done something wrong.” Our natural reaction is either to deny it, or to try to excuse it, or to cover it up. But simply to come out and say that one has does something wrong takes real virtue. And unfortunately this virtue often seems to be lacking in people who have high positions of authority. And waiting for them to change is like waiting for a very hot place to freeze over. It just isn’t going to.
Practicing humility: But our concentration should be on how we can practice humility—and not on how to give advice to others on how to practice humility. The latter would be a perfect opportunity for frustration and failure. Jesus uses a simple example of two different men: One was proud, who didn’t even see his own faults and saw quite easily the sins and failings of others. The other readily saw his own faults and failings, and took the best approach he could. He begged God for mercy and forgiveness. He didn’t try to make up any excuses for his sins. Ant that is what God likes to hear. Psalm 138 speaks about God knowing our inmost thoughts and desires. God even knows when we go to bed and when we get up.
Contact: Perhaps I bore you with my idea of prayer being “time you are willing to spend with God.” Today’s Gospel parable gives us a nice example of some of the things that we can say when we are spending time with God. Of course you can say formal prayers, out of a book if you want to. But you can also talk to God in your own words. The conversations of these two men today are good examples, although I don’t recommend that you spend your time with God, telling Him how good you think you are. It will probably make God laugh. But you can talk to God about that problem you are having, such as “just not liking a certain person,” or having a hard time forgiving a wrong that was done to you. In other words you can talk to God about anything. But I would not use too much time telling Him how good you think you are. I think God might get bored with that! Just kidding!
A suggestion: Maybe you could take one area or point from today’s Gospel lesson and try to focus on it for the coming year, especially if there is something that seems to need attention. We will be having this same Gospel more or less around the same time next year; see if there’s any improvement. I would consider my suggestion successful if just one person “took me up on it.” I’m going to try and make it part of my daily Holy Hour or visit with Jesus. +
INTROIT: “When I cried to the Lord He heard my voice…”