Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sermon Notes: Benjamin Franklin and Jesus

Reflection for 6:30 pm Mass
St. Vincent de Paul Parish
Tuesday Week VII of Ord. Time
Feb. 25, 2014

Humility: Today the readings clearly speak of humility. James finishes reproving his audience saying: God resists the proud, but give grace to the humble. And in the Gospel, Jesus has to use a child to teach the disciples to stop acting like one, arguing over who will be first in line.

The Hardest Virtue: I would claim that this is the hardest of virtues for us as Americans to grasp. A life of taking the lowest seat, moving to the last spot in line, differing accolades, and refusing recognition seems to be in no way consistent with the American Dream. Indeed, we often scoff at such actions saying: “stop it;” “get over yourself.” In the end, we really struggle to see acts of humility as anything other than weakness or lack of self-confidence.

Humility and Zeal: How, then, does humility accord with zeal or a drive to be the best? Humility will always be seen as contrary to zeal if it fails to recognize that to which Humility gives ground: God. Humility is not opposed to zeal or drive if that zeal or drive is for the exaltation of truth and goodness and beauty: God.

Benjamin Franklin: In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin recounts his attempt to become perfect. He made a list and began evaluating himself. The last virtue on his list was that of humility. Adding it only at the suggestion of a Quaker friend, he simply said: “imitate Socrates and Jesus.” At the end of his attempt, he states bluntly: “I cannot boast of much Success in acquiring the Reality of this Virtue; but I had a good deal with regard to the Appearance of it.”[1]

Humility Exalts the Other: Franklin as do many of us mistake humility for a set of actions useful for acquiring favor and general impoliteness avoiding the appearance of being too proud because we fail to see that true humility exalts the other. Taking Franklin’s advice, to imitate Jesus who was “meek and humble of heart” means to always exalt God the Father and likewise those whom He cares for, the lowly. For as Mary says “He has scattered the proud and lifted up the lowly.”

Exhortation: Humility is not opposed to your ventures at work and desires to accomplish great things in this life. Humble yourself today by giving praise to God and lifting up those around you.

[1] Part II p. 75

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