Humble Boldness

Humble boldness. Think of these two words. Do they fit with together? We typically think of a humble person as one who is unassuming, quiet, maybe even simple. A humble person isn’t someone we often think of as insistent or demanding.

Yet a bold person, in contrast, seems to be one who is courageous, fearless, straightforward, and quite persistent.

Can these attitudes work hand-in-hand? Humble boldness!

Humility is the opposite of pride and arrogance. CS Lewis noted that humility isn’t thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. You are not at the center. The ego is not controlling your thinking. Your world doesn’t revolve around you and what you want or what you think. You are not self-centered but other-centered.

Humility is realizing who we truly are in relation to God. Yes, we are all God’s children created in His image and likeness and thus, very special. Yet, we don’t assume we are more or less special than the other children God created. We have a unique relationship with our Creator. He has, however, a unique relationship with all His children. True humility helps us see our divine potential as a gift freely given to us by God. It is not something we earn or we deserve and thus it's not something we can take pride in ourselves. Ultimately, we realize that everyone else has similar divine potential.

Humility helps us see ourselves and the world around us in a proper God-centered perspective.

Humble boldness, therefore, embraces this healthy worldview but holds on to in a courageous, fearless manner. We know who we are and we know who God is. This knowledge makes us humble yet bold!

We see such a beautiful image of this humble boldness in today’s Gospel story with the Canaanite woman. We hear about a desperate woman whose daughter is severely tormented by a demon. The woman cries out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me Lord, Son of David.” As she continues to call out, Jesus seemingly dismisses her by saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The woman, not discouraged by Christ’s answer, kneels before him and says, “Lord, help me.” Jesus continues to test, “But it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She responds in utter humility, “Yes, Lord, but even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” And at that response Jesus marvels at her faith and exclaims, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

This Gospel story confuses us because our Lord’s words seem harsh and offensive to a woman in need? His words seem to contradict the general spirit we see throughout His life. So, what message does this story teach us?

Well, Christ highlights the humble yet bold faith this woman displayed.

Authentic faith is a faith in the one true God as revealed to us in history through Holy Scriptures. Authentic faith is a belief in an all-loving, yet mysterious God. Authentic faith is believing in an all-powerful God who Himself accepts to be humiliated and crucified. Such authentic faith comes from sacrificial love, extreme humility, persistence boldness, and undying hope. We see these virtues in today’s Gospel lesson.

This Canaanite woman approaches Jesus and asks him to heal her daughter. For us to properly understand this story, we must realize that a Canaanite was a foreigner, a religious idolater, considered unclean by the Jews. Yet, this woman shows HUMILITY and boldness to approach Jesus because of her desperate love for her daughter. Her child suffered from some terrible illness, and she must have heard about Jesus healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, and even raising the dead. She approaches Jesus with trepidation but with hope.

Her boldness allows nothing to suffocate her faith. Her love for her daughter overcomes any fear of Jewish-Canaanite relations. Her humility helps her overcome any uncertainty of the ethnic tensions. And this love and humility instilled within her the courage and boldness which nourished and strengthened her faith.

So, the woman approaches Jesus and kneels before him, simply asking, “Lord, help me.”  These three words, “Lord, help me,” combined with her action of kneeling, display clearly the humility needed to enrich her faith. The woman doesn’t demand Christ to help her, as if she deserves it. She doesn’t allow any pride to poison her faith. Instead, she humbly kneels before Christ and admits she’s helpless. Her one and only hope is Jesus.

How often do we allow our arrogance and pride to corrupt our faith? We don’t want to admit our weakness. It is difficult for us to confess that we cannot help ourselves, that we are not in control, and that our only hope is in Christ. Yet, a truly humble cry, “Lord, help me,” pierces the heart of God.

Jesus tests the woman’s humility. Too often people act humble, even saying appropriate words, yet their reaction to anyone hindering their desire reveals a dangerous, hidden pride. Thus, Christ tests the woman by saying “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

Jews knew they held a special position as the chosen people of God. They were God’s children. This often meant that they viewed foreigners as anything but God’s children, even calling them “dogs.” Jesus follows this line of thinking as He tests the woman’s faith.

Imagine how you would respond if someone called you a derogatory name. How many of us would become furious and walk away even if we had a desperate need? Our pride would control our actions and make us refuse any help offered because of the offense.

Yet, St John Chrysostom explained, “Christ’s words were not spoken as an insult. Instead, they were spoken for the purpose of calling forth her virtue and revealing the great treasure of faith that she had within.”

Thus, the woman responds with humble boldness. “Yes, Lord, but even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” She takes no offense at being called a dog. In true humility, she accepts that she doesn’t deserve any better than a dog. She will accept the crumbs. Such humility magnifies her faith.

Jesus acknowledges this amazing faith by answering, “O woman, great is your faith. Let your daughter be healed as you wish.”

Christ praised this devout faith because it was nourished by love and humility. Our Lord accepted her bold entreaty. The woman didn’t allow anything to overcome her faith. When Jesus ignored her in the beginning, she persisted. When he told her that she was not from the house of Israel, she persevered.  When Christ said it was not proper to give bread to the dogs, she continued. Her humble boldness revealed her incredible faith.

Humble Boldness. It sounds like a paradox yet it reveals the type of faith we want to cultivate in our lives.


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