Why approaching anything with humility is helpful

I was reading the homily of a friend for this Sunday, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, and his beautiful words got me thinking, particularly about how we approach anything with humility. He points out with doubt, we have one of two options. We can either claim that the defect is in me or that the defect exists in that which I desire to understand or believe.

Where we choose to put the defect ultimately affects our relationship with God, in the case of doubt. If we doubt Christ's words, we can claim a deficiency in ourselves and draw closer to God, despair that we will never be smart or holy enough, or we can put the blame on God and claim He is deficient, whereby we flee Him. For, if God is deficient, He is not God.

With other matters, we have similar options. For example, if we do not understand a math equation, as Fr. Miller points out, we can claim that there is a problem with the equation, and in doing so claim a problem with mathematics as we know it, or that there is a problem with me, the person trying to understand the problem. Now, if I claim the defect is with me, I will say one of two things, "Forget this!" or "What am I doing wrong?" If I say the former, I despair and walk away from mathematics. If I ask, "What am I doing wrong?" I put myself in a position to study harder, to draw closer, and to eventually understand, whereby my relationship with mathematics is strengthened. The second option I have is to claim that mathematics is wrong and does not work, and to replace it with myself, by which I become the arbiter of how numbers work. In effect, I end up relativizing numbers. Let me give an example: 2+2=4. If I can't figure this out and I claim the problem is with mathematics, then I conclude that any symbol in this equation means something different to me. 2 is not 1+1 and 4 is not 1+1+1+1.

So the approach that I need to take is one that puts trust in the great mathematicians that came before me. I need, however, to be honest in this approach. If I do not grasp the concept, that does not mean that I am stupid. What it means is that I do not grasp the concept.

When we approach God, we do the same. I may not understand the Trinity, but that does not mean that I am stupid. That does not mean that God or the Church or the Bible is wrong. It means that I do not understand. I can refuse it or draw closer to God or the Church or the Bible and strive to understand. We need to tell God, "I doubt." We need to beg for belief. We need to repeat the words from Mk 9:24, "I believe, help my unbelief." We need to make these words our own.

As with other sciences, we should not expect to receive belief or understanding without our own efforts. God does not treat us like puppets. It is in theological terms a matter of secondary causality, a cooperation between man and God, in which God moves us completely and we move ourselves completely. There are things, however, that we can never attain by our cooperation with God's divine assistance, e.g. salvation. We do, however, prepare ourselves to receive grace by that cooperation. This is the aspect that we should always be concerned with, i.e. putting our own effort in. So, it is appropriate to say first, "I believe," followed by, "help my unbelief."

We can, therefore, in a similar way, say, "I understand, help my misunderstanding." We can say, "I am trying, give me success." We claim a relationship with the source of all knowledge and goodness and ask to be drawn closer.
Mary Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!

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