Humility, Humility, Humility: A Brief Thought on Today’s Lectionary Readings

Conduct your affairs with humility…. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are.

Go and take the lowest place.

Bishop Robert Barron, who I heard referenced in this morning’s homily, said quoting St. Bernard of Clairvaux that “the three most important elements of the spiritual life” are “humility, humility, and humility.”

As I listened to the readings, I couldn’t help thinking: if those running for office listened to this … well, then maybe they wouldn’t be running for office.  Or at least they would be doing it very differently.

And then my thoughts wandered a bit closer to home: what if all the churchgoing faithful who are listening to these readings were to judge our leaders by these standards?  Could that have made enough of a difference to keep us out of the electoral mess we’re now in?  Or perhaps more importantly, what kind of difference could it yet make?

I’m not only talking about who and what we reward with our votes (although that’s part of it), but what we show up for, what sort of crowds we join, what lines we do or don’t cheer and applaud, what we are moved to write about to our city or diocesan papers, or in blog posts and comboxes – in short, what we give our public approval to.  As the great journalist and Vaticanista John Allen said recently, “Sometimes leaders learn more from crowds than from polls about how passionately people are feeling something.”

So what are our leaders learning from us about what virtues we most deeply value?  It’s a sobering question, in that it lets none of us off the hook about the state of our leadership.  But perhaps that makes it all the more a question worth pondering.


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