The Litany of Humility is one of those prayers that I hate. And love. And wish I loved more, but am a bit scared by. If ever there was a prayer that could level a solid crushing blow to the ego, I believe the Litany of Humility is a top contender.
“That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.”
There are several parts during this prayer that cause me to cringe, and this line is one of them. This cringing comes from the fact that I do not actually desire this to be true. It seems like it would be too difficult if this went from prayer to actuality.
Simply put: I want to be chosen.
Doesn’t everyone want to be chosen? I want to be the chosen confidant. I want to be the dearly loved and chosen friend. I want to be the favorite teacher. I want to be the one people choose to ask questions because they think I will know the answer. I want people to choose to read what I write. For so many things, I want people to choose me.
It is hard to pray that instead of being chosen, that I will be set aside. When I think about being set aside, I think about being forgotten. Nobody wants to be forgotten, so why is it being prayed for in this litany? I believe it helps us enter into the lot that was given to Our Lord. People dismissed Him based on where He was from, His profession, and who His parents were. They ignored His teachings and they sought to run away from the difficult demands He placed on their lives.
Perhaps the author of the prayer was actually praying for more opportunities to be overlooked and set aside. That is more than I want to pray for at this moment. But perhaps he meant that we would recognize Christ in the midst of the situations where we are overlooked and unite our pain to Christ’s suffering. There are times when I am set aside and not chosen. How do I respond in those moments? When friends choose to confide in others, how do I respond to that hurt? When my presence is overlooked or my contributions unacknowledged, how do I retreat to the Lord with a humbled heart?
My older sister once told me that we can experience Purgatory on earth if we simply accept all of the sufferings that come our way instead of running from them. That is difficult. Often I find myself refusing the sacrifices that come my way so that I can choose different sacrifices. I have a headache, so I take an ibuprofen to numb the pain. I hit snooze on my alarm clock. I delay correcting papers. There are numerous opportunities I have every day to suffer with the Lord and I reject them for something else. I’ll give up coffee for a day, but I refuse to put away the load of dishes. I’ll donate money to charity, but I let my sarcastic comments fly out of my mouth. Much of the struggle is accepting what comes my way and not forcing myself to be in control of which difficulties I encounter in life.
I know the Lord does not want me to feel forgotten by Him. But the Litany of Humility is not primarily about that. Rather, it seeks to properly order our lives. I am not the most wonderful or important person around, and, while painful, the different occurrences of life can help remind me of my smallness. At times, it is good for me to feel forgotten, dismissed, rebuked, overlooked, despised, and humiliated. It may not do wonders for my ego, but it can be good for my soul. Because it should hopefully force me to acknowledge that the approval, admiration, praise, love, and flattery of others is not my main goal. Those things can become a false crutch to prop us up.
Even if the world despised and rejected me, I should have a love so deeply rooted in Christ that I would be able to carry on. When I encounter rejection, as I certainly have and will, then I am to dive into His heart and suffer with Him. He knows what this world is like and He knows how blows can feel to a tender, human heart. Compared to the Lord and His love, this world is as nothing. Of course, it is natural to want to be well-liked and appreciated by others. Yet Christ is calling us to enter into a divine and supernatural love. One that truly satisfies and abundantly fills us.
The Lord has chosen me and loves me. Even if nobody else does, that love is sufficient. Buried deep in the wounds of Christ, why should I care about this passing world? Let the humble heart of Jesus teach us to become as small as He was throughout His earthly life.