Today, Christians around the world will receive ashes on their forehead as a reminder that we came from dust and will once again return to dust. Therefore, “Ash Wednesday” is a time to pause, reflect on our lives, and make plans to remove from our lives those aspects of ourselves which do not lead us closer to our God.
The practice of pruning our lives of those areas which are not healthy or which take us away from our inner-peace, produces a sense of humility as we realize that we are not perfect, but that we have the ability to learn from our imperfections. Letting go allows us to be true to ourselves, and open to the guidance of others.
There are people who exemplify humility, and for me, the ideal example comes from Saint Francis of Assisi. He was a wealthy son of a powerful merchant father, who, after gaining personal insight, gave up everything to live in poverty and to serve the poor in the spirit of Jesus. It wasn’t simply the giving up of everything that made Francis humble; it was his attitude and way of living. In the book “The Way of St. Francis: the Challenge of Franciscan Spirituality for Everyone“, author Murray Bodo, OFM writes:
“The radicalness of St. Francis is not in his poverty, but in his response to the Gospel of Jesus. He lives it. And that is what is so astounding to the people of his time. They don’t think it can be done. Nor do we today. … Francis’ whole life is a proclamation that the love of neighbor can only be secured when the Gospel is lived sincerely…”
In other words, living our lives focused on our values, and in a true sense of a love of neighbor, will keep us grounded (humble) and focused on our priorities (simplicity). Today’s closing prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours morning prayer nicely sums up what I am saying: “Change our selfishness into self-giving. Help us to embrace the world you have given us, that we may transform the darkness of its pain into life and joy.”
What can we do to help us attain humility and simplicity?
- Spend 10 minutes each day in quiet, focusing your thoughts on simple phrases and your breathing.
Spend time watching and reflecting on the nature around you. Do you see the ant, flower, bird, leaf, dog, cat, etc. What are they doing?
Make a list of your life’s priorities. Those items at the top of your list need your full attention. The rest, well, decide what is necessary and what is merely clutter in your life.
Help others. Love your neighbor.
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