HUMILITY: THE FOUNDATION OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
Jesus rarely praised people, but He does in two circumstances: Nathanael, who is called an Israelite without guile and John the Baptist who he says is the greatest born of woman. An extraordinary virtue, practiced to an exalted degree by John the Baptist was his humility.
What is humility? St Teresa of Avila says that humility is TRUTH. Humility also might be defined as the recognition that all the good that I can possibly do comes from God, the author of all good gifts, and all the evil I have done comes from my own wickedness.
Listen to a few of the most profound but humble words of St. John the Baptist!
He must increase but I must decrease…
I am not even worthy to unfasten his sandlestrap…
I am only a voice crying out in the desert: prepare the way for the Lord….
When the bridegroom comes, then the friend of the bridegroom disappears…
You come to be baptized by me; I should be baptized by you…
Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world… And John’s disciples left John to follow Jesus…
All of these biblical passages manifest a remarkable humility on the part of Jesus’ cousin and precursor. St. Ignatius of Loyola offers his retreatants a meditation of “The 3 degrees of humility”. The first is death rather than mortal sin; the second, death rather than deliberate venial sin; the third degree of humility is a willingness to suffer humiliations so as to imitate the Lord all the more closely. Given that the royal highway to humility is through humiliations, let us reflect on some ways that the Lord might offer us some “Golden Opportunities” to practice humility and thereby grow in humility. “Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto yours.”
1. MISTAKES/ERRORS! Shakespeare says, “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” When you make a mistake beg pardon and right away. That is humility! “I’m sorry!” Two short words, but words that demand great humility!
2. FORGIVE! On the other hand, if asked to forgive, do it right away! No delay! Remember, if you want to be forgiven by God, then you must forgive. Otherwise, do not pray the Our Father…”Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…
3. INTERRUPTIONS/UPSET PLANS! When your “all-important” plans and schedules have been interrupted or upset, then do not get angry, but simply accept it. Roll with the punches! Maybe God has better plans than your plans!!!! “My way or the highway” is not found in the Gospel, according to my readings!
4. CONVERSATIONS! Let the other have the last word! Proud people believe they always have the right to the last word. James says that we should be slow to speak and quick to listen. Why not listen attentively to the end!
5. CONFESSION! Simply preparing yourself well for the Sacrament of Confession and then humbly confessing your sins to the priest who represents Jesus is an act of humility. Form the habit of frequent confession and you will be cultivating a humble heart that is so pleasing to Jesus, who is meek and humble of heart!
6. LAST PLACE! Put into practice Jesus’ teaching on humility. He says that when you are invited to a party that you should not seek the first and best place, but rather the last place. Then the host will invite you to a seat of honor. Remember the Lord’s words: “The first will be last and the last will be first…. and those who humble themselves will be exalted…”
7. FRATERNAL CORRECTION! When somebody points out your defects, faults, or limitations, instead of becoming defensive and angry, humbly thank the person and try to put into practice the advice. Humble people recognize that they make many mistakes and when highlighted by others are thankful and ready to obey! We all have blind spots and God sends others who see our “blind spots” to bring us into the light!
8. SEEK ADVICE! Humble people recognize that they do not know it all. As the Greek philosopher asserted: “The only thing I know is that I know nothing.” We must all be humble learners sitting at the feet of the Master. Still, we should seek out spiritual direction periodically. St Teresa of Avila, St. John Bosco, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St Faustina— they all had many points in common among which one was that they all had spiritual directors to humbly point them in the right direction towards Jesus, “The Light of the world.”
9. IGNORED! FORGOTTEN! NOT TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT! When it happens that you are ignored, forgotten, made fun of, a but of a sarcastic joke, subject to ironic and derisive smiles or even insulted directly— then you have your “Golden opportunity” to practice the Ignatian third degree of humility and thereby skyrocket in humility, through these “Royal humiliations”. Grace, grace and even more graces is needed to accept these! A suggestion! Offer it for the salvation of a soul. Another suggestions! In moments of humiliations, call to mind the humiliations of Jesus in His passion, for example His crowning with thorns. These two thoughts can spiritually motivate you!
10. HUMILITY BEHIND THE WHEEL! Beyond the shadow of a doubt, at times on the road, others may cut you off, rush in front of you, leave you with the “Red light!!!!” Instead of uttering choice, disedifying words, bless that driver! Jesus says clearly that we should even bless our persecutors; this can even be applied to our fellow drivers. Maybe your prayer and humility will direct that person on the “Highway to heaven?”
In sum, in hell burns the proud! Satan rebelled against God in pride and hell is his eternal destiny. Mary, on the contrary, said, “Yes” to the Lord in total humility, saying, “ May the Hearts of Jesus and Mary be our model, guidance and haven of refuge. “Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto yours.”