Privilege: The KEY Ingredient in Humble Pie
In 1980 the somewhat famous singer, songwriter, Mac Davis, recorded a song entitled, “It’s Hard to Be Humble.” Here are the words to the refrain, “O Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way. I can’t wait to look in the mirror, ‘cause I get better looking each day. To know me is to love me. I must be a hell of a man. Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, but I’m doing the best that I can.” (Casablanca Records. 1980.) If you’re like me and ever listened to it, you probably thought 2 things; namely, it’s pretty funny, but there probably are people who actually believe that about themselves. Hopefully, we’re not one of them.
This weekend, we read from the words of Saint Paul in his Second Letter to the Corinthians. Ever since I first read this passage many, many years ago, I have found it to be “very real” for me, very sobering. Let me offer the specific verse to which I am referring and then share with you my thoughts about it. He writes, “That I, Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.” (2 Cor. 12:7-10) There has been a lot of speculation as to what Paul meant. I’ve heard the phrase, “some sort of addiction” thrown around. I’ve heard other ideas. The point, however, isn’t really what “it” was. The point is, all of us are broken in some way. We all have our weaknesses. We have our “Achilles heal,” if you will. At times, these are recurring, they raise their heads more than once in our lives. This part of the passage is a reminder of the obvious: none of us is perfect. It’s when we forget this that the wheels come off the wagon, so to speak. This message, however, is not about our brokenness only. Paul continues with one of the most comforting and encouraging statements in all of scripture. He writes, “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.'” (2 Cor. 12:7-10) This particular verse inspired the 1975 song written and recorded by a group of priests known as The St. Louis Jesuits, entitled, “Take, Lord, Receive.” If you’ve never listened to it, I encourage you to do so. It literally comes close to bringing me to tears every time I hear it.
Society and the world tell us that strength comes from this source or that, usually some type of worldly gain. Real strength, however, comes in the ability to surrender to God our weaknesses, our strengths—as much of our lives as we can. It is most definitely true: there is a certain grace to be uncovered in imperfection. When we feel weak, as the world, our peers, coworkers, and so on may define weakness, it is then that we are really strong. We just simply need to embrace this side of ourselves in faith. The key ingredient to genuine humility is privilege. I am privileged to be a brother, an uncle, and, of course, a priest. I am most definitely not worthy. I am blessed beyond human understanding to be alive after the experience of cancer. Despite all of this however, there have been moments in my life when I risked forgetting where I’ve come and what I’ve been through. I do not want to forget. I want to remember. That’s the key to remaining genuinely humble—remembering that we are all blessed beyond belief.