Recently, I overheard a Catholic priest give a homily about another priest who received a compliment toward his work as a pastor, “Father,” said the person giving the compliment, “The work you do here is amazing! You are so holy that you have even inspired a former atheist friend of mine to be baptized into the church!” The priest responded, “Praise be to God!”
As I reflected on this priest’s humble and confident reply to the compliment, I realized how easy it could have been for him to become proud, arrogant, or self-righteous. The compliment was addressed to him and implied that he, and he alone, had brought this former atheist into the church. But this priest knew better. By saying, “Praise be to God,” he gave the glory to where it belonged and recognized that the success he had in bringing the former atheist into the church was through God’s work in him- not through him and his work alone. What a wonderful display of humility and confidence in God!
Too often those who strive to live their lives for Christ (myself included) can become distracted by what we perceive to be a success. But Christ’s teaching is clear that we are not to rejoice in ourselves and our success, but in God and the work that God has done in us. Luke’s Gospel has an excellent example of this:
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk. 10: 17-20, RSV).
In this Gospel, Jesus lovingly humbles and praises the confidence of the seventy missionaries by reminding them to rejoice, not in their success over banishing demons and bringing souls to Christ, but in the fact that the Holy Spirit has worked in them.
So, how do we find humility in our work and confidence in God’s work in us? What are some good ways to practice humility and confidence in God? St. Alphonsus de Liguori offers some excellent advice in his book, “How to Converse with God.” In his book, St. Alphonsus de Liguori calls us to reflect on God’s love for us and to reflect on the mercies he has given us.
When I practiced these reflections, I was moved to tears. I was amazed by how much God continued and continues to love me despite my repeated offenses against him. I was amazed how many times God has offered me mercy by presenting me with opportunities and reminders to return to His grace. When I forget about God, He calls me back. He never fails to send me reminders that I need Him and that I am loved by Him. Additionally, I found that my humility in my work and my confidence in God grew when I began to follow this advice from St. Alphonsus de Liguori:
Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with Him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as the dearest and most loving of friends. Speak to Him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fears- everything that concerns you. Convers with Him confidently and frankly; for God is not wont to speak to a soul that does not speak to Him.
I have learned that by developing humility in my work and confidence in God’s work in me, I am better able to do the work God calls me to do. I have learned through witness and experience that the humbler we are, the more we draw others to Christ and the deeper and more profound our relationship in Christ becomes.