THERE are three levels of humility, and few of us get beyond the first.
The first is relatively easy to see. It is when we or someone else is arrogant, proud, or defensive; when we are overly-assertive, stubborn or unwilling to accept a certain reality. When a soul comes to recognize this form of pride and repent, it is a good and necessary step. Indeed, anyone striving to “be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect“ will quickly begin to see their faults and failings. And in repenting of them, they might even say with sincerity, “Lord, I am nothing. I am a miserable wretch. Have pity on me.” This self-knowledge is essential. As I have said before, “the truth will set you free,” and the first truth is the truth of who I am, and who I’m not. But again, this is only a first step toward authentic humility; the acknowledgment of one’s hubris is not the fullness of humility. It must go deeper. The next level, though, is much harder to recognize.
A genuinely humble soul is one who not only accepts their interior poverty, but also accepts every exterior cross as well. A soul who is still captured by pride may appear to be humble; again, they might say, “I am the greatest sinner and not a holy person.” They might go to daily Mass, pray every day, and frequent the confessional. But something is missing: they still do not accept every trial that comes to them as the permissive will of God. Rather, they say, “Lord, I am striving to serve you and be faithful. Why do you allow this to happen to me?”
But that is one who is not yet truly humble… like Peter at one time. He had not accepted that the Cross is the only way to the Resurrection; that the grain of wheat must die in order to bear fruit. When Jesus said that He must go up to Jerusalem to suffer and die, Peter balked:
God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you. (Matt 6:22)
Jesus rebuked, not only Peter, but the father of pride:
Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do. (6:23)
Well, just a few verses before, Jesus was commending Peter’s faith, declaring him to be “rock”! But in that following scene, Peter was more like shale. He was like that “rocky soil” upon which the seed of the word of God could not take root.
Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, but they have no root; they believe only for a time and fall away in time of trial. (Luke 8:13)
Such souls are not yet authentically humble. True humility is when we accept whatever God permits in our lives because, indeed, nothing comes to us that His permissive will does not allow. How often when trials, sickness or tragedy come (as they do for everyone) have we said, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing should happen to me! Am I not your child? Am I not your servant, friend, and disciple?” To which Jesus replies:
You are my friends if you do what I command you… when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. (John 15:14; Luke 6:40)
That is, the truly humble soul will say in all things, “May it be done to me according to your word,” Luke 1:38 and “Not my will but yours be done.” Luke 22:42
… he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:7-8)
Jesus is the incarnation of humility; Mary is His copy.
The disciple who is like Him refuses neither God’s blessings nor His discipline; he accepts both consolation and desolation; like Mary, he does not follow Jesus from a safe distance, but prostrates himself before the Cross, sharing in all His sufferings as he unites his own adversities to Christ’s.
Someone handed me a card with a reflection on the back. It summarizes very beautifully what has been said above.
Humility is perpetual quietness of heart.
It is to have no trouble.
It is never to be fretted, vexed, irritated, sore, or disappointed.
It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me,
to feel nothing done against me.
It is to be at rest when nobody praises me,
and when I am blamed and despised.
It is to have a blessed home in myself, where I can go in,
shut the door, kneel to my God in secret,
and am at peace, as in a deep sea of calmness,
when all around and above is troubled.
Finally, a soul is abiding in true humility when it embraces all of the above—but resists any kind of self-satisfaction—as if to say, “Ah, I am finally getting it; I’ve got it figured out; I’ve arrived… etc.” St. Pio warned of this most subtle enemy:
Let us always be on the alert and not let this very formidable enemy [of self-satisfaction] penetrate our minds and hearts, because, once it enters, it ravages every virtue, mars every holiness, and corrupts everything that is good and beautiful. —from Padre Pio’s Spiritual Direction for Every Day, edited by Gianluigi Pasquale, Servant Books; Feb. 25th
Whatever is good is God’s—the rest is mine. If my life bears good fruit, it is because He who is Good is working in me. For Jesus said, “without me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Repent of pride, rest in God’s will, and relinquish any self-satisfaction, and you will discover the sweetness of the Cross. For the Divine Will is the seed of true joy and real peace. It is food for the humble.
Bless you and thank you!
Last night was a beautiful and powerful evening.
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