The great American activist and Servant of God, Dorothy Day, was quite famous for her work with the poor. She was a twentieth-century American version of Mother Teresa, in that she took care of the poorest and most forgotten in New York and Chicago. Like Mother Teresa, this work for the poor often drew curious reporters and publicity. One day, Dorothy Day was sitting with a poor homeless woman at one of the soup kitchens in the city. A reporter walked up and stood respectfully to the side, waiting for the conversation to finish. When Dorothy noticed the reporter, she turned to him and said, “Are you waiting to speak to one of us?”
Speak to one of us? Of course she had to know that the reporter was not interested in speaking with the homeless woman. But Dorothy did not see herself as greater than the poor whom she served – and this is true humility.
Our readings speak about humility. Of all the virtues, humility is the one that is most pleasing to God, because it makes us most like God, Who humbled Himself by His death on the Cross. Humility is NOT the same as being humiliated or embarrassed, and humility is NOT about thinking of ourselves as worthless. Instead, humility means that we know who we are before God – nothing more, and nothing less.
Aquinas said that “virtue is in the middle” – the midpoint between two extremes. And humility is very much in the middle, between pride and false humility. Sinful pride says, “Look at me! I am the best ever!” Remember that catchphrase of the boxer Muhammed Ali? “I’m the greatest of all time!” This is sinful pride – not recognizing that all that we are is a gift from God. But the other extreme must be avoided as well: false humility, when we think poorly of ourselves. How often have we given a complement to someone, and they respond, “Oh, no, I’m not really very good at that.” That isn’t humility – it’s false humility. ….