Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. (1 Peter 4:10)

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about humility. I ask for it in my prayers, and when I’m feeling particularly brave, I pray the Litany of Humility (https://ascensionpress.com/pages/litany-of-humility). My Father God has answered this prayer in interesting ways, and sometimes I have to remind myself with some firmness to express my gratitude.

I think I’ve written a little about humility before. Somewhere, in a homily or some reading, I learned that humility, or being humble, does not mean putting ourselves down, or even considering ourselves less good or less important than those around us.

Rather, it means being honest in our self-assessment — recognizing ourselves for our flaws and faults, and recognizing ourselves for our talents, our skills, and the ways that we shine. And I think it means something more, because these recognitions are worthless if they do not set us on a path that draws us closer to Jesus.

Yesterday, the gospel reading was Luke’s telling of the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector — a man of short stature who was so eager to see Jesus that he climbed a sycamore tree to get above the crowd for a good look at him. (I used to have a sycamore tree in my back yard. It was huge. What a climb that must have been!)

For many years, when I read this story and heard homilies based on it, the focus was on Zacchaeus’ faith and his eagerness to know Jesus, or on his response to Jesus’ recognizing him and coming to his house. But when I read it yesterday, it spoke to me of humility.

You see, tax collectors in Jesus’ time probably weren’t known for their humility, and yet Zacchaeus shows himself to be the epitome of humility. He recognizes that he is short in stature. Now, he could go in a couple of directions with it. He could stay in the midst of the crowd, moping and berating himself about being short and how that’s going to keep him from seeing this Jesus who he very much wants to meet. He could even get mad about it. God, why did you make me so short? Now I can’t even get a glimpse of this Jesus who I think happens to be very important to me.

But Zacchaeus doesn’t take either of those paths. Instead, Zacchaeus not only recognizes his short stature, he actively embraces it. And he uses it to put himself in an ideal — if by some lights, laughable — position to see and perhaps encounter Jesus.

And oh, how well it turns out for him! He not only sees Jesus, but Jesus sees him, and seeks him out, builds a relationship with him. And it only gets better from there. Jesus decides to come to Zacchaeus’ house that day, and Zacchaeus is simply filled with the grace of that encounter to the point where it changes his entire life.

This kind of humility is a wonderful thing. I kept thinking and thinking about it, and then this morning at Mass, the homily built right into the concept. The priest, preaching on Revelation 4:1-11, emphasized God’s holiness and glory and infinite greatness, all as a prelude to reminding us that God, who is all of everything, loves us with an all-encompassing love — not because we are worthy of it, but because he made us, and we need his love.

That homily took me right back to the story of Zacchaeus. I realized that the story is telling us that Jesus loved Zacchaeus, not because he deserved it but because he was made by God (of whom Jesus is the creating Word), and because he needed it.

And there is the beauty of humility: Recognizing that we are beloved of God, not because we are worthy but rather, and blessedly, because we so desperately need it. And because we do, God finds us worthy, deems us worthy as his own creation. That kind of love is unfailing, all-encopassing, and not just life-changing, but soul-changing.

It seems to me that the essence of humility is recognizing ourselves for what we are, and using each realization as a way and a reason to seek out Jesus. When we do, he will surely find us.

And I can live with that.

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