Humility

As we set out to become disciples, it’s only natural – even expected – that our very first questions and uncertainties are, “How do I do that?”, or “What will I need to do to become a disciple?” The response to this reaction is at once promising and challenging. This is because the response is – we can do nothing.

Becoming a disciple first requires that we open ourselves to the truth that we are nothing. We do not have what it takes to become disciples. Not on our own. We need Jesus for that. We don’t just need Jesus in addition to all that we are and do. We don’t simply need Jesus to improve or expand on what we do. We need Jesus to infuse the very heart of everything.

So, where can we begin? Humility is where we start. St. Thomas of Villanova said, “Humility is the mother of many virtues, because from it obedience, fear, reverence, patience, modesty, meekness and peace are born.”

We must begin with an emptying, a total letting go of all that we know to be true. It is first, in our fallen human nature, to take upon ourselves the idea that we can do anything to which we set our minds. We have a natural inclination to strive to have more, be more, do more, and we expect that others do the same. To make matters even more difficult, we live today in societies that encourage, support and enforce these beliefs. From our earliest days, we’re told that we’re special, that we can do whatever we believe is best for us and our families, that we have every right to store up our riches (monetary and otherwise), because we have earned them through our own efforts. St. Augustine, whose own life was a model for prideful sinfulness overcome by genuine humility, observed that, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” True humility, the kind with which Jesus began his very own preaching in the Beatitudes, is countercultural, both in the time of Jesus’ mission on earth and now. To live in absolute meekness and humility, as Christ calls us to do, is radical and revolutionary.

We’ve been praying together as a parish the beautiful prayer, “Jesus, I trust in You.” I believe it is important to think about what it is we are trusting to Christ in this prayer. Do we trust him to bring about a reality that we have decided is the right one? Do we trust him to bless the choices we’ve made for ourselves, our families and our communities? Or do we truly, completely trust him with our entire lives? Do we trust that the very crosses we bear are those he has allowed for us, so that our lives can embody fully the life God has willed for us? Do we trust him even when he is calling us to reconsider our long-held opinions and prejudices? Do we trust him even when we pray and pray, and we can’t hear his answer? Is our prayer for His Glory or for our own reassurance?

One of the ways we can embrace this prayer and open ourselves to God’s Grace, which we will sorely need if we are to acquire humility, is to lay ourselves open to Jesus’ gaze. Just as Jesus sees James, John, Simon (Peter) and Andrew with a long and knowing regard, we can trust Jesus to look upon us in the same way. “Jesus, I trust You to see me,” is a good beginning.

This is hard stuff. The consequences of deep and total humility make us uncomfortable. We are naturally shortsighted and may only see the costs for us in our workplaces, our relationships and our understanding of where we fit in the world around us.   There is so much to be gained! “The soul’s true greatness is in loving God and in humbling oneself in His presence, completely forgetting oneself and believing oneself to be nothing; because the Lord is great, but He is well-pleased only with the humble; He always opposes the proud.” (St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul)

Thankfully, we have been given the “example of examples” in Christ Jesus. We must put on the “mind of Christ,” by making a firm decision to understand and adopt his way of thinking. His attitude of meekness and humility guided his desires (the Will of God) and conduct (everything with an eye on the Kingdom). We have a great help in the Holy Spirit, with whom we can transform our hearts, which is impossible to do with only our own strength.

When we have allowed ourselves to be brought low, we will have a realistic sense of who we are in relationship to God and others. Our lives will be course corrected, because only when we are truly humble before God will we allow ourselves to be led by him. Then our prayer takes on a much deeper meaning, “Jesus, I trust in You.”

Lisa Amos

Pastoral Associate

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