Strength is Revealed Through Humility

               Strength is Revealed Through Humility
Romans 7:14-25 
Sunday of the Canaanite Woman 

This week’s epistle reading may be difficult to read; however, it may not be difficult to relate to one’s self when read with patience. In the reading, St. Paul accurately depicts the inner turmoil of a man who is torn between the perceived pleasures of sin and the desire to follow the law – a familiar conflict for many Christians, especially in the midst of the Great Lent. 

Holding fast to an ancient faith while living in a modern society, we find ourselves constantly struggling with the ever-widening gap between our two worlds. Even when we have been instructed in the faith from a young age, influences from the outside world can enter our hearts and minds, making it difficult to practice the faith and abstain from sin as we know we should. As St. Paul reveals, we allow ourselves to remain under the bondage of sin and easily sway under temptation. It is important to understand that we are not inherently sinful, but this sin “dwells in [us]” like an infection, tainting our deeds with evil whether we allow it to or not. 

During fasting, we bring the law to our attention more than before, by training ourselves to consciously choose certain foods over others, we practice the discipline necessary to consciously choose certain thoughts and actions over others. This is how the law was intended – to reveal our sin to us so that we, in our humility, find the opportunity to repent at Christ’s feet. This same act is achieved through Christ in the accompanying Gospel reading of the Canaanite Woman (St. Matthew 15:21-31) as Christ’s interaction with this woman reveals the true strength of her faith by first humbling her. 

Humility is a powerful trait and it can fuel the growth of spiritual life significantly, but it can sometimes be a source of discomfort. When we look back at humiliating moments in our lives, we tend to feel shame for our weaknesses and disgrace for our wounded pride. Imagine how it would feel if Christ rebuked your sinfulness in person, arguing that He died for you and yet you love sin more than Him. But God uses humility as a loving tool to bring us closer to Him, both through the law, as St. Paul mentions in Romans, and through Christ, who is the fulfilment of the law. St. Basil the Great discusses this phenomenon when he writes his discourses, “On the Origin of Humanity,” as he reminds us to remember that we are dust, that God created us out of nothingness in an act of pure love, and we are nothing without Him. It is a humbling feeling to think of one’s self as dust – something with no inherent value until blessed with the touch of God. 

When we are humbled, it is important to find strength in this feeling, not of our own accord, but in Christ. Through Christ’s ultimate act of humility on the cross, He conquered all sin and death; therefore, we have strength in Him when we undergo torment over our spiritual struggles. When we find ourselves torn between obeying God’s will and succumbing to the world’s will, we find strength in Christ Who resisted the temptation of Satan in the desert (St. Matthew 4:1-11) and fully offered Himself to the will of God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane (St. Matthew 26:39). Although we may not recognize it at first, God uses humility in our lives through the teachings of Christ and the traditions of the Church to make us stronger in our faith and love of Him. As we experience Mid-Lent, it is important to not be discouraged in our struggles but to allow ourselves to be transformed and strengthened by Christ as He stands as a symbol of hope in our hearts just as He is represented by the Golgotha which now stands fixed in the center of the church. 

Questions for Reflection: 

1. Is God trying to humble you? Are you able to rely on Him with unwavering faith when you feel weak? 

2. How is Christ a symbol of hope in your Lenten struggles? How can Christ continue to be a symbol of hope after you complete this Lenten journey?