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Not to Us, O Lord, but to Your Name Give Glory

Homily for Monday of the 5th Week of Easter

Not to us, O Lord, but to your name be the glory. (Psalm 115:1a) The psalm used for today's responsorial is one of the more famous in the psalter. The sentiments contained in the very first verse have inspired many poets and provided the basis for some of the world's most beautiful music.

When I taught high school Latin, I tried to find a classroom activity to open each day's lesson that would challenge the students but which would only take about five of the precious minutes in each class. My most popular was to write a common Latin phrase on the board and challenge the students to translate it within a set amount of time. I remember hearing a beautiful hymn in Kenneth Branagh's film of Shakespeare's play Henry V. In this historical drama, Shakespeare has the king proclaim the singing of Non nobis and Te Deum after the Battle of Agincourt. Branagh uses this reference to introduce the hymn in his film version of the play. I was so struck by the musical rendition written by Patrick Doyle that I bought the music and played it at the beginning of a Latin class and challenged the students to translate it before the music ended.

This psalm is a beautiful expression of grateful humility as it realizes that all the good that we do is done by God through us. It acts as the responsorial in today's liturgy as we hear the experience of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra. A crippled man is healed by Paul after which the citizens proclaim that Paul and Barnabas are gods. Upon hearing the citizens of Lystra, they Paul and Barnabas tear their garments. The history behind this action seems to come from the symbolic act of tearing the king's garments as a way to indicate the removal of his authority. The Jews used it as an action that signified religious indignation and anger in the face of blasphemy.

The virtue of humility is said by some to be the ability to understand exactly who one is. The word itself comes from the Latin word for soil or ground, humus. Humility makes it possible for one to remember that he is made from the dust of the earth by the Almighty, that without God, the human being can do nothing. This is a hard lesson to learn for human nature seems to wish to exalt itself.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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