Throughout the course of my twenty years of living, I have been taught what to believe about Jesus Christ and why I am to believe it. Through extensive and rigorous Catholic schooling, I have taken my fair share of Religion and Theology courses that have laid the foundation of my faith life.
It was not until I made the decision to attend my first mission trip that I was able acquire knowledge that no textbook could have ever taught me. Knowing very few people who were in attendance and only ever so slightly, I had mentally and spiritually agreed with God that I would allow him to use me in whatever way he had planned.
Growth was my goal and upon waking up early on our first morning in Gallup, New Mexico, growth was exactly what I was presented with. That is, the over-grown growth of a dried up pond directly in the middle of the assisted living facility we were housed at. It was in some serious need of our weed-pulling attention to say the least.
Instead of allowing my mind to wonder why, I quickly forced my thoughts towards remembering the promise I made about keeping an open heart. This promise quickly faded, not from my incapability to adhere to it, rather from a shift away from selfishness that I had subconsciously taken throughout the course of the trip.
Each day in Gallup consisted of early mornings, late nights and nothing but service to others in between. This everyday consistency altered any and all attention that I had placed on myself into nonexistence.
The day we spent on the Navajo reservation where all residents are well below the poverty line was one that will never be forgotten. A pure, raw, real display of why we are called to become unimportant was brought to the surface that day. Through the eyes of those living on the reservation, Christ was beaming back at us, so undeniably present that it brought heavy emotion and deep reflection throughout the weeks that followed.
The most moving reality of the reservation day was that nothing, absolutely nothing was about us. We were not called there to make ourselves or our identities louder and more profound. Rather we were called to be smaller and less relevant while standing amidst a truth that we struggle to understand if we are never exposed to it. The truth that Christ calls us to be so humble that we cultivate a desire for others to shine and increase while we go unnoticed and decrease. The same truth that proves that true humility can be found in serving the poor.
"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat." - Mother Teresa of Calcutta
There was no glitz or glam involved, no makeup needed, nothing that tied us back to ourselves. Identities stripped as a result of disregard towards them. They were irrelevant in a place like Gallup because when we gave our lives to God and to the service of those God placed in front of us, the importance of our identities back home was forgotten, set aside, insignificant.
All pain paled in comparison to the importance of what was happening around us. I became numb to the idea that my physical needs took precedence over anything that I had encountered for nine consecutive days. From the many large ant bites that I incautiously received the first day of our trip to the tender sunburn I came home with, suddenly my pain was completely belittled in the presence of those I was to serve.
Even in the most silent moments of sitting at the top of the hill on the assisted living grounds, no voices to fill the air, no distractions, just the unfathomable beauty of Christ’s love for us through nature, the Truth could be found.
I learned that we can only hear things in the quiet if we open our hearts and allow ourselves to let it fill us. We must possess the humility to let Christ in and allow him to take control of things that are not meant for us to control ourselves. It was silence that spoke so many things into existence while simultaneous remaining, well, silent. So, why are we not silent as well?
"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls." - Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Every day we struggle with the turning away from a humble heart and forgetting the importance of being unimportant. I struggled a lot with this upon arriving home, however in the midst of overcoming daily challenges, the Litany of Humility helps to bring my attention back to what I learned in Gallup, New Mexico so many months ago.
Immediately prompted of the path that we should wish to place our intentions, the Litany of Humility will always be a reminder of who we are called to be and how we are called to live.
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me. From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved... From the desire of being extolled ... From the desire of being honored ... From the desire of being praised ... From the desire of being preferred to others... From the desire of being consulted ... From the desire of being approved ... From the fear of being humiliated ... From the fear of being despised... From the fear of suffering rebukes ... From the fear of being calumniated ... From the fear of being forgotten ... From the fear of being ridiculed ... From the fear of being wronged ... From the fear of being suspected ...
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ... That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease ... That others may be chosen and I set aside ... That others may be praised and I unnoticed ... That others may be preferred to me in everything... That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…
I challenge you to place your trust so heavily on Christ that you find comfort in the seemingly uncomfortable aspects of your faith life. I challenge you to open your heart so much to His plan for you that all of the places in your heart that house fear are washed clean and replaced with comfort in the Lord. Lastly, I challenge you to practice the virtue of humility every single day. Replacing every desire to be bigger or better than the person next to you with the desire to make them more luminescent than you ever could be.
"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." - Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Find strength in your unimportant and in turn you will find strength in Christ.