Humility is one of the most important virtues in the spiritual edifice. Actually it is the foundation of the spiritual life. All of the saints did indeed strive for humility of heart. We all should yearn and desire to grow in humility, but it costs and it costs very dearly!
Saint Teresa of Avila says that humility is simply this—THE TRUTH. It is the truth about who we are—not in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of God. Another definition of humility might be the following: “Recognize that all the good I have done in the past, are doing in the present and can possibly do in the future is due to God’s goodness to me; whereas, all the evil I have done is my own fault.”
On one occasion Jesus described a key attribute of His Sacred Heart, using two words: “I am meek and humble of heart…”(Mt. 11: 28) If Jesus is meek and humble of heart and He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and our model to follow, then we should try to imitate His sublime humility.
To truly be humble is easier said than done! Many would like to be humble in a vague, abstract, and theoretical way, but they are not willing to count the cost for such a key virtue. Without true humility our spiritual life will be side-tracked, if not paralyzed.
Once Saint Augustine was asked what virtue to practice? The great saint replied: “Humility and humility and humility…” This great saint was bitterly humbled by a life of sin and slavery to sin into his early thirties.
|The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican|
In the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, the one who went away justified and praised by God was not the Pharisee who seemed to be doing at least exteriorly all things well—praying, fasting and observing the Law. The one justified and praised by Jesus was the Publican. The reason is clear: humility. He would not even lift his eyes and simply begged to be forgiven because he was a sinner. Read and meditate upon this wonderful Parable on Prayer (Luke.18:9-14); to pray well we must have a deeply humble and dependent heart—indeed to rely totally on God. Another short definition of prayer might be: “God-reliant and not self-reliant!”
The following are ways that we can strive to acquire the all-essential virtue of humility.
1. BEGGARS. Saint Augustine, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that we are all beggars before God.
“Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God." But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or "out of the depths" of a humble and contrite heart? He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer, only when we humbly acknowledge that "we do not know how to pray as we ought," are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. "Man is a beggar before God." (2559 # CCC)
|See yourself as a crippled beggar before God|
2. This means that we are totally dependent on God as beggars are towards their benefactors for their daily sustenance! We must beg from the Lord for humility of heart. Why not pray the traditional short aspiration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus with fervor and trust: “Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.” Remember that once you never existed and God gave you life and constantly maintains your whole being in existence!
|Blessed Mother Teresa serving, loving and humility|
3. CHARITY. Once Father Benedict Groeschel was asked how to grow in humility and he responded that the best way to grow in humility is to practice the virtue of charity. What does this mean? Simply this! When I go out of my way to help, serve, give, pour myself out for the good of my brothers or sisters in need, not only am I practicing charity but I am also practicing humility. Another definition of humility might be simply this: Putting others above myself!
4. HUMILIATIONS. Beyond the shadow of a doubt being humiliated in any time place or even by any person is exceedingly difficult. When humiliated by someone, there are two options: to seek out a way to get even or revenge toward the person that humiliated me—which is the easiest path. Or, instead of seeking out revenge, I could forgive the person that humiliated me and hurt me and imitate Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who suffered so much for me and my salvation. Why not imitate Jesus and the saints and accept humiliations and unite them to Jesus, especially in His Passion and death.
|The Crowning with thorns of Jesus|
5. HUMILITY OF JESUS. In one of his brilliant talks Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen discoursed on the humility of Jesus, and in three different ways. 1) INCARNATION. In Jesus’ Incarnation, God became man; this was an enormous lowering or humiliation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Sheen draws this analogy. Imagine that you a human person were transformed into a dog with a dog’s body but still maintaining your intellectual capacities and then the dogs of the street turned on you and ruthlessly killed you. This is a pale image of the humiliation that Jesus underwent to achieve our salvation. 2) The Passion of Jesus. View the film of Mel Gibson—how many humiliations Jesus underwent for our salvation, submitting to all like a lamb led to the slaughter. 3) Finally, until the end of time, Jesus is undergoing almost unspeakable humiliations in His Mystical Body the Church, in a special way in His Sacramental Presence, most specifically in the Eucharist! All too many Catholics fail to attend Sunday Mass—what a humiliation and monstrous act of ingratitude towards Jesus. Others attend Mass and simply play the “bench-warmer” and fail to receive Jesus with love—another humiliation! Worse yet, there are those who both attend Holy Mass and approach Holy Communion, but unfortunately they receive Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin, thereby crucifying Jesus upon their reception. Of all the humiliations, this is the heights of all humiliations! Therefore, meditating upon the constant and profound humiliations of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, can serve as a most powerful means to help us, at least to a small degree, to imitate Our Savior and grow in that indispensable foundation of the spiritual life—the virtue of HUMILITY!
May Our Lady, the humble handmaid of the Lord attain for us true humility of mind, heart, soul and life. “Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.”