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When I graduated from Princeton, the president handed me a scrolled up paper with a ribbon. It was blank. You do not get the real diploma until you hand over the receipt that says “Paid in Full.” So after the graduation, I had to drive to another building to pick up my diploma. Mom and dad waited in the car. When I returned to them, my father was in the front seat looking at a map, and my mother was in the back. I said, “Mom, do you want to see my diploma?” She took it and said, “Now I hope you are not going to turn into a smart know-it-all. Now, why would my mother say such a thing to me on my special day? It was obvious to me at the time. I spent my life enrolled in the school of Mary Grover. What exactly is the school of Mary Grover? It is this: “Always be humble.” Humble people are hungry to learn; humble people are generous and grateful. Humble people notice others.

Jesus was twelve years old when he was in the Temple listening to the teachers and asking them questions. Jesus had been accepted into the Harvard University of Jewish studies. He had the best teachers, liturgies, and he was well respected. You would think that any parent would be proud to offer their child a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Yet, Mary took Jesus back to Nazareth. What is in Nazareth? There are no great schools or teachers there. Answer: the school of Mary. Where did Jesus know to eat dinner with tax collectors and sinners, forgive them, and give them all a second chance in life? He didn’t learn that from the Temple theologians. Where did Jesus learn to go to a synagogue during the Sabbath, take a woman who was crippled for over eighteen years and cure her? Not in the Temple. Where did Jesus learn to take off His outer garment, put a towel around His waist and wash the feet of His disciples? He would never have learned that at the Temple. Where did Jesus learn to say on the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” Not the temple. He learnt it in Nazareth at the school of Mary. And what exactly is the school of Mary? It is the Magnificat: the humble will be exalted. It is at the school of Mary that Jesus learned to have the patience of God the Father. It was at the school of Mary that he learned the forgiveness, the compassion, and the forgiveness of God the Father. It was at the school of Mary that Jesus learned to be a Son of God…a very beloved one.

We were made to be humble. There is a rock outside St. John’s Seminary. I drive by it every time I leave. It has been there since the last ice age, and I suppose it will be there at the start of the next ice age. If we draw a timeline from one ice age to another, that rock is on it. I am just a dot on the timeline. Stand outside at night and look up at the stars. Instantly, I am a dot in the universe. I am nothing in time and space yet there is no one more important to God than us insignificant dots.

In the book of Proverbs it says that God is kind to those who are humble. When I first started to flyfish, I never caught anything until an older gentleman gave me some instructions. He was retired, and he has been fly fishing since he was a kid. After a few months, I was catching fish regularly. He told me that I was his best student. He said, “You learn because you are humble. Other fishermen think they know everything and they never feel like they need to listen, but you listen.” That is why God is kind to the humble. They listen.

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