June Allocutio 2024

The Two Most Humble Hearts

Fr. Paul Churchill, Concilium Spiritual Director

I have always been struck by the fact that the place where John the Baptist

baptized Jesus in the Jordan was in a part of the Jordan close to the Dead Sea.

That location is the lowest place on planet Earth. And that helps emphasise

again how Christ goes to the lowest place in everything. On that occasion John

even objects, “You should baptize me, not I you” (Matt 3:13-15). But Jesus

insists that he be baptized into the community of a people repenting for their

sins. And for that community Jesus will go even to the dregs of the Cross

having already endured a birth in a place made for animals.

“Christ was humbler yet, even to accepting death on a Cross” (Phil 2:6). We

badly need to step back and realise how humble Jesus was. “Learn from me for

I am gentle and humble of heart” (Matt 11:29). The most humble act done by

Jesus was to become man, to join himself to that species in creation who are

gutted with sin, selfish and proud, immature and irresponsible, violent and

exploitive and often lacking compassion, being quick instead to dismiss one

another. What a mess we are in! And the Creator-God joins us and identified

himself with us. And then allows himself the degradation of being born in an

animal enclosure, suffering an early sign of being unwanted as Herod seeks to

kill him, living in an off the beaten track place called Nazareth, and all leading

to his ultimate dismissal on the Cross. And he says to us all, following his own

example, “Seek the lowest place!” (Lk 14:10).

We go around trying to be important, imagining that we are something, looking

down on and indeed putting down others. “I am successful, I have this degree

and that office and own so much. I look well don’t I?” How many of us in true

justice deserve that forward place in the Temple with the Pharisee who thanked

God. But that is not what Christ showed. It did not in fact do him justice when

he was rejected and scorned and rubbished by the world as imposter. But he

chose the lowest place and urged that on us all. How can we claim to follow

him if we do not choose that with him?

Now let me turn to the humble maiden of Nazareth. How many girls in our

world fancy themselves? And they want to go even better by beautifying

themselves. The make-up, the designer clothes, the political correctness, the

etiquette. “Oh yes and the school I went to and my degrees, not just basic you

know, and my promotions. And now I am the president of the, well I don’t have

to say the obvious, do I!” And behind it all, really possible, is a great insecurity,

a deep desire to be recognized and loved and wanted.

The fairy-tales of the world often tell a deep truth. The poor maiden of the

wood-cutter’s cottage who captures the hiker’s attention, suddenly sees the love

in his eyes for her, not knowing he is the King’s son and that she is destined to

become Queen. Who in Nazareth recognized the Queen in the wood-cutter’s

home? What does it matter, our origin or birth, our station in life, our wins and

losses, and indeed whatever we suffer, if the Lord-Creator looks on us with

delight and desire and wants us?

How did her voice sound? Refined sounding voice or normal or course? A

strong country accent or a rough inner-city one? Did she wear hand me downs?

Had she a slight limp? She said yes to living in a place about which Nathaniel

could say, “Could anything good come from there!” And she gave birth in a

manger. And her son would be viewed by many as a troublesome, to-be-

eliminated criminal. Not a refined upper-echelon of society woman. But the

King saw her inner beauty centered on her humility.

It is worth doing this reflection: Take a soul who for nearly all his/her life is in a

wheel-chair and cannot speak properly and cannot work or make a contribution.

Instead, they need a lot of minding and cost both family and State. In that

humble state that soul may be offering more to God than most of us who can get

out and do things. That person’s “Be it done unto me according to thy word”

may be very close to Mary’s! So to all Auxiliaries I say: do not underestimate

the contribution you can make.

Mary was prepared to be the dwelling place of that in-coming God who was

seeking out the lowest place and wanted to identify with the poorest and

lowliest. In Mary he had a true companion in humility. In this month, when we

celebrate the hearts of them both, may we be given the grace to lower our own

self-image and seek to be identified with the poor and the meek and the reviled

as Christ put before us in the Beatitudes.

And if you find you are blessed with health, intelligence, organizational ability,

thank God and ask him the help of the Holy Spirit to use well what you have.

Still remember this, how it will take only one moment to change all that. And

that can be at a physical level (e.g a stroke) but also at a spiritual level

(suddenly wondering where is God with your faith shaken) and moral level

(plagued with temptations and even falling). Remember folks that we are dust

and into dust we shall return. The greatest risk to us spiritually is pride,

thinking I am above any sin. The Lord of the humble way reminds us, “Without

me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us

sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” Amen.