About ten years ago, when I was vocation director for priestly formation in our diocese, I can recall the committee-wide process of writing a kind of handbook for seminarians. The goal was to inform and encourage young men aspiring to ordained priesthood concerning one’s overall formation in areas of human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral growth and development. One of the sub-committees was tasked with outlining certain gifts, talents and “virtues” associated with overall development. In the course of discussions, I had proposed the value of docility, especially in spiritual formation, but also valuable in the overall movement of formation. Little did I know that this word or stance immediately caused derision among some of my colleagues. They were very concerned that I was proposing a kind of weakness, a stance of helpless abandon and, ultimately, a dry and lifeless irresponsibility for one to work at the process of formation. On the contrary, I was proposing quite the opposite.
After heated discussion, I can remember citing certain postures in Sacred Scripture, two to be exact: Saint Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, “…my grace is sufficient for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection. So I willingly boast of my weaknesses that the power of Christ may rest upon me; for when I am weak, it is then that I am strong.” Here we are, among other things, encouraged to submit our lowliness to the Lord who raises us up in Himself; second, from today’s gospel passage on this Feast of the Annunciation, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” Both of these citations, I would propose, encourage the hearer to embrace weakness and grace, a holy submission and subsequent strength. For instance, when one submits oneself to be led by another, he grows in courageous trust…and the one led quickly begins to value the role of leadership and how such leadership should serve the good of those being led. In another regard, once one submits oneself to the will of the Almighty, one begins to understand and appreciate well the gift of God which surrounds us.
Docility is an honest, real posture which is borne out of our natural weakness when confronted with both the reality of sin and evil, but also it is the appropriate stance we take when we acknowledge and reverence the Lord of All. It is from this stance, then, that we are, first, able to acknowledge God’s goodness and holiness, and second, we are able to be led by Him to His Glory.
Might each of us be able to grow closer to the Lord who is Good Shepherd? Might we benefit from submitting our lowly selves to the greatness of God, thus being transformed, by His grace, into a holy people? Might we be most perfect, only once we have admitted of our need for God, …for His strength, …for His guidance, …for His love and mercy?
May we be able to be docile, and thus open to receive God’s grace this day…grace which is so needed by each and every one of us, as we grow more and more in the likeness of the Lord.