Conference: "Humility, A
Speaker - Msgr. James P.
Sullivan is President of Cardinal
Spellman High School in the Bronx (www.cardinalspellman.org). He was
Special Assistant to Cardinal O'Connor for vocations; Administrator of St.
Eugene's Parish in Yonkers; Rector of Cathedral Preparatory Seminary
(Manhattan); Associate Superintendent for Religious Education and a Teacher at
Msgr. Farrell H.S., Staten Island. Msgr. Sullivan has a Master's Degree in
Religious Education from Fordham University and a License in Educational
Administration from St. John's University.
Outline of Talk
- Retreats are for gaining perspective. Some need to be quiet, to
be alone with God. Others need to converse with others. We
need to respect these different ways in which we retreat. All of
us, however, enjoy the presence of God.
- When I told my colleagues I was to speak here on "humility",
they laughed. After all, I'm very proud of my humility!
- One might be surprised at businessmen seeking humility. I'm
going to try a couple of things to illustrate humility.
- Ever think of God as being humble? Or of Jesus as being a humble
Messiah? We must continually grapple with the idea of Jesus and,
hence, of who we are. To understand humility, we must understand
- Jesus was a teacher. Those of us who teach just might have a
notion of doing God's work.
- Think of your favorite teachers. Who was it who unleashed your
creativity, so that you would create things bearing your name?
Whose life stories touched your life and changed it?
- What about the Jesus story? He told us stories; they were like
windows, like this window on the Hudson River (here at the Passionist
Spirtual Center). The window gives us an opportunity to glimpse
reality. Jesus's stories were about Himself; they give us a window
- The parable of the lost sheep: the shepherd went to find that lost
sheep, even though it was only one. The prodigal son, also.
These stories help us find who God is. What's religion, after
all? It's God's searching for and finding us.
- Here's a story that's like a window; it looks to reveal the heart of
God. Jesus told us, when we're invited to a wedding party, to sit
at the lowest place at the table; the host will then come and
bring you to a more elevated spot. Is this just etiquette or is
there more involved?
- We can get caught up in our own significance; and we usually place
that significance upon ourselves. But who gives us
significance? Our creator; He created us; He is our host at the
"wedding feast". Who always invites us to Himself?
God, the host.
- The main thing we can appreciate about ourselves is who created
us. He's the host who keeps inviting us. Is there much
difference among you and me and our creator, who created us in His own
- Mirrors let us see ourselves as we are and as we should be.
- Jesus told a parable, like a mirror. The story of the Pharisee
and the tax collector. The tax collector, who humbled
himself, was exalted. The Pharisee, who obeyed all the laws, was
not. But the Pharisee was not a bad guy; he just wanted to exalt
himself, to give himself significance. He defined himself by what
he was able to do. He said "Look at me, at what I have chosen
to do". But the tax collector knew something of God, knew
that God loves to forgive. He found his significance in the One
who created him. And he knew that God loves to forgive.
- God's Forgiveness
- Everyone in a church, front row or back row, must know that God loves
to forgive, that God has a relationship with him. The retreat
reminds us that we are children of God, who wants to be with us and who
rejoices that we want to be with Him, to enjoy His presence.
- That's what humility boils down to. It deals with having two
feet on the ground in a relationship with God.
- Jesus's Humility
- To understand humility, we must understand who Jesus was. His
humility was exemplified by His willingness to shed a divinity and take
on a humanity, to the end that He becomes one with us so we can better
The humility of God: In that
we can understand our lives.
The humility of God: He waits
for us to turn to Him.
- Humility is love, charity, service, . . . The significance is
who I am as a child of God.
- Don't question your goodness. You can never give it away.
Your goodness in being here tonight is an expression of your life as
- Look in your mirror tonight and see your goodness, yourself in God.
- God's vocabulary has to do with who you are.
- I've fooled around with the humility of God; it always comes back to
the image of Christ on the cross.
- Think of the power that exists in the room! It's the power of
God as seen in the cross.
- The Father creates out of love; humility comes from love. The
spousal relationship begets more love.
- The goodness of the terrorists? God gave us free will; and,
sometimes, some of us make terrible choices. We get angry.
We get angry even at God. (Note that we get angry at people we know,
not at those we don't know.) Jesus would forgive them. We cannot
put limits of God's mercy.
- A poem: God, I cannot forgive; the pain is too great.
God, You make me do as You will,
Since You know how to forgive.
- The Church has always thought that a society has a right to protect
itself. Ref.: 1 Timothy. It has to do with prayer and
petition for those in authority. President Bush needs such
- The Holy Spirit: Descriptions of it are definitions of who Jesus is.
- No one is asking you to forgive the terrorists; understand
- We are incomplete; so we are sinners. And God recognizes our
weakness. When we are weak (e.g., when we are ashamed that we are
unable to forgive the terrorists), God's love enables Him to forgive
us. In our weakness, God does his best work.
- Our great sin is that we don't take God at His word.
- I believe that evil does not just come from people's wrong choices
under free will. There is a force of evil in the world.
(The notes of this outline were taken by David
G. Price. They were wordprocessed by Patrick Lyons.
These notes may not be reproduced without the written permission of the
This page was last edited on December 26, 2001 by Patrick Lyons.)