Not Understanding: Humility

Listening to the Gospel of Mark during this part of Ordinary Time, we hear Jesus patiently teaching his followers about the nature of discipleship and the kingdom of God. We also hear the disciples’ responses, which show their lack of understanding of what Jesus is talking about.  Jesus, recognizing this, tells Peter,

“You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Mark 8: 33b)

What prevents us, like the disciples, to more fully understand what Jesus is telling us about serving him and others? Or maybe the better question is:  what would it take for us to more fully understand?

  • “Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

Children are rooted in what God wants them to be. They are what they are and act in accordance to their deepest nature, their God-given nature.

Pope Benedict XVI tells us:

“We will know God to the extent we are set free from ourselves.”

Humility sets us free and allows us to love Jesus and others more than ourselves. Humility means becoming like children and relying on the Spirit to teach us how to be his followers through the liturgy, prayer, Scripture, and the events of our life.

  • “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the servant of all.” (Mark 10: 43b-44)

“Docile” comes from the Latin word docere (to teach). Being docile means to be teachable. We can think of it as having an attitude of receptivity to what the teacher offers us.

Docility to the Holy Spirit means that we look to the Holy Spirit – the Spirit who is the love between the Father and the Son – for the wisdom to be faithful to Jesus Christ and learn to serve others.

Docility ultimately means stepping out in faith after seeking the Holy Spirit’s will for us. We are called to “walk by faith and not by sight.” St. Paul’s words are a reminder that God’s will is rarely revealed to us in some absolute way. It requires trust in Jesus and stepping out into the unknown as his disciples.

  • “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8: 34b)

We have no better example of discipleship than our Blessed Mother Mary. Though most of Jesus’ disciples failed him on Good Friday by leaving him when he was taken away to be crucified, his mother was there to share the pain and suffering and persevere with Jesus to the end of his earthly life. Our Blessed Mother Mary stands by the cross in great faith, in total surrender and total trust in God’s plan for her son. She accepts her mission to be the spiritual mother of all the faithful followers of Jesus.

As human beings, we will never fully understand the mystery of discipleship, but we can follow Jesus in humility, being docile to the Holy Spirit, and surrendering to God’s will for our lives.

Though humility requires that we recognize our own inability to know God’s ways, truly desiring to please God requires that we use the resources God has given us to follow as best we can.

The prayer of Thomas Merton reminds us that our efforts to follow Jesus as best we can do indeed please God:

“My Lord God …. I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following Your will, does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. Therefore I will trust you always, though I may seem lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me.  And you will never leave me to face my perils alone.  AMEN.”

Debbie Garza is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Leon Springs, and is an experienced Pilgrimage Group Leader with Pilgrim Center of Hope. She has traveled with Pilgrim Center of Hope to the Holy Land, Italy, and Greece. She says, “On pilgrimage, I know the ears and eyes of my heart have been opened by God’s grace and I’ve experienced the Joy of the Gospel. I am committed to helping other pilgrims experience their personal journey of faith.” Debra is also a member of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Speaker Team.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit

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