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Give God the Glory
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, September 1, 2013
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The buzz was almost immediate: “He lives in an apartment in Buenos Aires.... He cooks his own meals.... He takes the bus to work.” As soon as Pope Francis was elected, details about his life as Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina were in the news and on social media websites. In the days and weeks following the election, one act after another pointed to the pope’s humility. He models a simple way of life and encourages others in the church to do the same.

Today’s Gospel is one of Jesus’ most extended comments on the virtue of humility. The society of Jesus’ day depended a great deal on status and honor. People were in relationship to one another according to strict rules of class, occupation, and conduct. This was far more than a question of the arranged seating we might experience at a formal dinner.

Luke frames the parable Jesus tells by setting the scene for us. He tells us Jesus is at the home of one of the leading Pharisees and “the people there were observing him carefully.” Jesus knows this and turns their observations back on them. He chides them for seeking positions of honor, suggesting that they instead will be shamed by someone more important than they perceive themselves to be.

Jesus is talking to the climbers, the pushy ones, the people who are already abusing the little power they have in a bid to get even more status, more power. They’re the ones who don’t mind stepping over other people to get ahead.

Jesus teaches again and again that the last will be first, not as a way to encourage them to push forward and get ahead of the rest, but as a reassurance that it’s not the pushy people who get their way in the end, even though it might seem to be the case in the short term.

In an ironic twist, stories such as this one at times have been used by those in power to keep people lower down on the ladder in their place. It’s not surprising that the world was astounded by the signs that Pope Francis was such a personally humble man who declined any appearance of pomp and exaltation. And there were those who accused him of “pauperism,” pretending to a poverty that wasn’t genuine.

The virtue of humility too often has been preached to people who already had no status—and as a result, no self-esteem—and it just made them feel worse about themselves and willing to let others push them around. Jesus was talking to the leaders, those who had plenty of status and weren’t afraid to trade on it. The pope, like Jesus before him, pointed out that his example was for his fellow cardinals, bishops, and priests, those who might be tempted to accept the social marks of importance, all the little perks that come with status in society.

True humility is not about letting others push us around. Neither is it running ourselves down or being falsely modest about what we can do. It’s about realizing that who we are in relationship to one another depends solely on who we are in relationship to God. It’s about recognizing that the gifts we have and the recognition that comes to us rightly belongs to God. We will accept ourselves and those around us as truly equal in God’s eyes.

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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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