Walk Humbly with God

The Journey to Emmaus

by Robert Zund

"You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8, New American Bible)

From one of the smallest books of the Bible comes a line of incredible richness and depth, a line that sums up the whole spiritual life, not only for people in general but for penitents in particular. A life of penance would be well lived if the spirit of this verse guided such a life.

YOU HAVE BEEN TOLD

God has revealed to us what we are to do. We don't have to try to figure it out. His words are very clear, in Scripture, in the teachings of the Church. "You have been told." We need not wonder if we know or if we have heard aright. Read the Bible. Study the Catechism. Meditate on the documents of the Church and the writings of the Holy Father. Consult the Lord in prayer. "You have been told." We know that God calls us to conversion, to penance. He tells us how to go about it. It is all very clear, if only we listen. We have been told.

O MAN

God reminds us that we are not gods. In every age, some people have aspired to the godhead. They have been worshipped formally in past ages; in the present one, the worship is informal but is it any less heady? Centuries ago, people may have thought the emperor was god. Now we think we have no God. So we consult psychics and politicians, newscasters and athletes, and Hollywood stars and psychologists to teach us how to act. We who have turned our backs to the God Who Is make others into gods who are not. Yet every one of these non-gods is human. "O man". That is all we are. That is fully who we are. Man, the highest created being next to the angels. Creature, though, not creator. We have great value, but only because God gave it to us. "O man, remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return:" (Genesis 3:19). God had to remind Adam and Eve of that truth when they tried to pluck godhead with the fruit of the forbidden tree. "O man" Not one of us has or will escape returning to that dust except He Who became man and was raised before corruption set in and the Mother of this God-Man for whom, by God's singular grace, the favor of perpetual virginity was linked with perpetual sinlessness and bodily incorruption. 

WHAT IS GOOD

Jesus said, "Why do you call me 'good?' No one is good but God alone." (Mark 10:18) We who are but human have been told what is good, and not only told but shown. God came as Jesus to show us what is good. We look at Christ and we know. We see goodness reflected in Him and in all the teachings of the Church which speak of facets of His goodness. We do not only know what is good. We also know Who is good.

AND WHAT THE LORD REQUIRES OF YOU

Ah, here is the rub. Micah is not talking about what God suggests or wishes but what He requires. Something that is required must be done or else there is an unpleasant consequence. We are required to pay our heating bill; if we don't, the heat is turned off. We are required to renew our driver's license; if we fail, it expires. We are required to eat or we die. If we do not fulfill the requirement, the privilege that follows is revoked. God requires something of us. If we do not fulfill it, we are on our own. Being on our own brings us back to making ourselves into gods and seeing where that takes us. In the end, it takes us right down to a meaningless death and to an end of everything we worked for in this life. 

ONLY 

Ah, little words can have profound and infinite meanings. "Only" to do the right, as if it were so easy to do. "Only" means "this is the one thing you must do." This is everything. Pay attention. 

TO DO THE RIGHT

Not to discuss the right, vote on the right, weigh the right and the wrong, the good, the better, and the best. Not to decide what is right for society today as opposed to what was right in the past or for me to decide what is right for me and you to decide what is right for you. There is only one right. It is THE right, not A right. And once we know it, we are to DO it. God requires us to "do the right" no matter how difficult that is, no matter how many want us to do the wrong or not to do anything at all. God REQUIRES that we DO the right. 

AND

Another simple word. There is more than "doing the right." Something else is required. Pay attention.

TO LOVE GOODNESS

God is good. He has shown us goodness in His Son. What was that goodness but turning the other cheek, forgiving enemies, exposing hypocrisy, loving the sinner, instructing the ignorant, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, preaching the Good News, and sacrificing one's life for the sake of the ungrateful? If we are to do what is right, we must do these things that are good, and we must not only do them but must love them. We are to embrace goodness with love, being good not grudgingly but joyfully. Love means to hold close to your heart, to become what you love. To love goodness means to become goodness, as much as we can, with God's grace. And to be that goodness no matter how much badness is going on around us.

AND

There is more. Pay attention.

TO WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD

So rich an instruction, a line that sums up the entire spiritual life. Like toddlers whose hands are in the hand of the Father, we are to walk humbly with our God. What toddler is proud? What toddler thinks he's better than anyone else? The toddler is unsteady, toddling along. He knows that he must hold the parent's hand or else he'll topple. So he walks, clutching the parent's finger, carefully stepping, keeping pace with those big adult legs and neither lagging behind or darting ahead or dawdling off to what's interesting to the left or the right. Safety lies in holding onto that hand so that one can keep one's balance. We are to walk humbly with our God Who will never walk too fast for us, nor too slow. We are to know that we are not God, but that He is. We are to understand that we do not know the way, but that He does. We are little and weak, but He is powerful and strong. We are ignorant, but He knows it all. We are unsteady, but His strength holds us upright. He is not a god but our God. He belongs to us and we belong to Him, not like a dog belongs to a man but like a child belongs to a parent. We belong to Him because He is God Who created us out of love. We belong to Love that made us to love -- to love goodness, to do the right, and to walk humbly with Him.

When we walk humbly with our God, then we will automatically do the right because God will lead us only to do right. He cannot lead us to do evil or to remain indifferent for God is never indifferent or evil. He may walk us through evil, with foes all around us. Some of them may harm us, but then, they harmed His Son to Whom we are to be conformed. Ultimately the evil will be turned to our good, for God, if He bring us through evil, does so because that is the only way to bring us to the good He has in mind. God may walk us through indifference in which the world seems oblivious to our plight, but God is not oblivious. He knows what we need and, if we walk humbly with Him in trust, He will bring us to the good, which is never fully realized in this world but only in the next. We need to trust Him in Whose hand we are to put our baby fingers. The terrain may be unfamiliar, terrifying, rugged, or harsh to us, but He knows it more intimately than Sacagawea knew the Northwest and He will lead us more securely to glory than she led Lewis and Clark to the Pacific. 

If we walk humbly with our God, we will automatically love goodness because God is Good and being with Him means knowing the Good. We must walk humbly with God. He is not going to drag us or pick us up and carry us, kicking and screaming, into the good. To walk humbly with God means to allow Him to lead and we can only do that if we know that He is good. When we know that He is good, we automatically love Him. 

Walk humbly with your God. We are walking with Him when we know, each moment, that He is with us, even when we do not see Him. A blind toddler can let the parent lead even if she does not know what the parent looks like. We may be in a spiritually blind time, yet we know that God has led us there and that our hand still is in His as He leads us through the darkness. We try to discern where He is leading by prayer, by good counsel, by the dictates of the Church, and by our circumstances. Sometimes we do not know where He is leading--our goal is to hold fast to Him and wait just as a child must hold the parent's hand on a long walk and only when they stop at Grandma's does the child know the destination. 

When we face a decision, and each day we face many, we ask God, "What do You want me to do?" and we listen for the answer and then "do whatever He tells you." (John 2:5) Sometimes He seems to take long in answering, but maybe we do not understand His language, just as a toddler does not understand the parent's words but must mature and grow into the understanding. There is a whole spiritual language that we do not know, that deals with reading the circumstances, feeling the nudgings of the Spirit, and listening to the gentle voice of God when our own is louder and drowning His out. The longer we cling to His hand, the more we will come to understand that spiritual language, the more we will grasp about goodness and the more quickly we will do the right. 

"You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8, New American Bible)

A life of penance is a life of conversion. The Rule of the Confraternity of Penitents deals with penance, stems from conversion, and leads to deeper conversion. A life of penance, lived well, helps us to recognize what is good, to embrace it with love and joy, and do it. Penance helps us to become goodness, not by our own efforts, but by walking in all humility with God Who created us for goodness. He Himself will lead us to perfection if we humbly hold His Hand and let him take us where He wishes. The Rule for the Confraternity of Penitents, indeed any Rule of Life dedicated to penance (conversion), is a grown up way to make us into babies. It's a way to put our little baby hands into the mighty hand of our loving Father and allow Him to support us and lead us wherever He wants. We do not question. We do not balk. We do not run off. We clutch His hand tightly and walk with Him--we the creature and He the Creator, we the sinful and He the sinless; we the child and He our Daddy--humbly we walk with Him, straight into eternity. He Who left the unspeakable grandeur of heaven to take up our simple humanity calls us to that same humility; He Who walked always with the Father calls us to do the same. He is our model, and to be one with Him, we must be the servants of all. The kingdom of God is conquered by the littlest, by the childlike, by grown down toddlers who hold the hand of God and walk humbly with Him. 

"You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8, New American Bible) Lord Jesus, help us to do what you require. Amen.

Madeline Pecora Nugent

© 2016 by The Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN USA 46803   www.penitents.org

 

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