I am meek, and humble of heart

Homily at Silverstream Priory
Third Sunday After Pentecost

Today’s Mass of the Third Sunday after Pentecost continues, in some way, the grace of the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Introit is, in effect, the cry of a lost sheep bleating for its shepherd. It is the appeal of a soul in distress to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

Look Thou upon me , O Lord, and have mercy on me: for I am alone and poor. See my abjection and my labor and forgive me all my sins, O my God. (Psalm 24:16–18)

The Collect is a confession of our helplessness and poverty and, at the same time, an act of confidence in the mercy of God that is ever multiplied upon those who trust in Him:

O God, protector of all who hope in Thee, without Whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, multiply Thy mercies upon us, that, having Thee for our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not those which are eternal.

The Collect is reminiscent of the 22nd Psalm, a contemplation of the Heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd:

The Lord is my shepherd; how can I lack anything?
He gives me a resting-place where there is green pasture,
leads me out to the cool water’s brink, refreshed and content.
As in honour pledged, by sure paths he leads me;
dark be the valley about my path, hurt I fear none while he is with me;
thy rod, thy crook are my comfort. (Psalm 22:1–4)

In the Epistle, Saint Peter, first among the shepherds of the flock of Christ, reveals how deeply he was touched by His Master who said:

Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light. (Matthew 11:29–30)

The humility of the Heart of Jesus so impressed itself on Saint Peter that, years later, he enjoined the sheep of his flock to remain humble and trusting when visited by suffering:

Be you humbled under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in the time of visitation casting all your care upon Him, for He hath care of you. (1 Peter 5:6–7)

The Epistle begins with the 6th verse of Chapter 5, but one who applies himself to his lectio divina will discover that it is the 5th verse of the same Chapter that casts light over all that follows:

In like manner, ye young men, be subject to the ancients. And do you all insinuate humility one to another, for God resisteth the proud, but to the humble he giveth grace. (1 Peter 5:5)

The quaint expression, “do you all insinuate humility one to another” may strike one as curious, given the modern slightly negative connotation of the verb “to insinuate”, but the word, understood according to its etymology is exactly right. Insinuate contains the two Latin words, in sinu, meaning in the bosom, in the breast, or in the heart. The man who insinuates humility takes it deeply into himself. Saint Peter would have the young men, whom he is addressing, hold humility in their hearts. What humility? The humility of Jesus, Peter’s Divine Master, who presents Himself to us as meek, and humble of heart. Every time one receives Holy Communion, it is an insinuation (a taking into the deepest part of oneself) of the humility of Jesus. The soul who abides silent and receptive before the Most Blessed Sacrament will, over time, experience an insinuation of the silence of the Host, of the humility of the Host, of the hiddenness of the Host.

Saint Peter warns that one who places himself in the school of the Heart of Jesus will not be spared afflictions, temptations, and attacks from below. In the face of such trials, he recommends but one thing: trustful abandonment into the care of the Shepherd, “casting all your care upon him, for he hath care of you”. Monsignor Knox renders this same verse:

Throw back on him the burden of all your anxiety; he is concerned for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

The Gradual draws upon Psalm 54 to say the same thing:

Cast the burden of thy cares upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee; never will he let thee stumble, his servant if thou be. (Psalm 54:23)

In the Gospel according to Saint Luke, the Evangelist of Mercy, it is the Shepherd Himself who reveals to us just how He multiplies His mercies upon those who are in His care, and even upon the lost sheep:

What man of you that hath an hundred sheep: and if he shall lose one of them, doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go after that which was lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, lay it upon his shoulders, rejoicing: And coming home, call together his friends and neighbours, saying to them: Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost? (Luke 15:4–6)

The Offertory takes the message of the Gospel and turns it to prayer by making us sing a verse full of hope from Psalm 9, the psalm of the defenseless poor:

Let them trust in thee who know thy name: for thou hast not forsaken them that seek thee, O Lord. (Psalm 9:11)

The Communion Antiphon, which will be repeated again and again, gives the last word to joy.

Dico vobis, gaudium erit coram angelis Dei super uno peccatore pœnitentiam agente.
I say to you, there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance. (Luke 15 :10)

Humility, trustful abandonment, conversion, and joy. These are the things that the Sacred Heart of Jesus would insinuate in us; these are the things that flow from the Heart of Jesus into the hearts of all who cast the burden of their cares upon Him, believing in His love.

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