Sunday, January 21, 2007


1. Humility is the most difficult of all the virtues because it requires us to deny ourselves. Jesus warns us that anyone who wishes to follow Him must deny himself. If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself. (Mt. 16:24)

Humility is necessary if we wish to go straight to Jesus, Who was the first to humble Himself by becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the Cross (Phil. 2:8). The Imitation of Christ contains some profound remarks upon this subject. "Seldom do we find anyone so spiritual as to be stripped of all things ... If a man gives his whole substance, still it is nothing. And if he do great penance, it is but little. And if he attain to all knowledge, he is far off still. And if he have great virtue and very fervent devotion, there is still much wanting to him, namely, the one thing which is supremely necessary for him. What is that? That having left all things else, he leave also himself, and wholly go out of himself, and retain nothing of self-love." (Imitation of Christ, Bk II, Ch. 2:4)

When he has done all this, remember, he has only given God all that he received from Him. He has given nothing which was really his. He has only fulfilled an obligation of restitution. When he has arrived at this stage of humility, therefore, he should repeat the words of Jesus. "When you have done everything that was commanded you, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what it was our duty to do.'" (Luke 17:10)

This is genuine humility as preached in the Gospel.

2. Humility is, in fact, truth. Many think that it is a mental fiction or a pious exaggeration, and that only a few souls can really achieve it.
In other words, we must disregard ourselves. We must be content to be unknown and unesteemed. This might seem to be contrary to, or at least superior to, human nature, but it is based on the simple, naked truth. What have we that is not a gift of God? All that we have in the natural and supernatural order, we have received from God: "What hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received it, why dost thou boast as if thou hadst not received it?" (I Cor. 4:7)

Our defects and sins are the only things which are really ours. So we have a double motive for humility. Everything good about us is a gift from God. Only our sins belong to us!

3. Some people realise that they can achieve something good or beautiful by making use of their natural gifts along with the grace of God. Meanwhile they see others failing where they succeeded. As a result they are lacking in humility. Theirs is a mistaken attitude. Do we know what difference there is between the gifts God has given us and those He has given to others?

Even if God has granted us greater natural and spiritual gifts, surely this is a motive for humility rather than pride? St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus was accustomed to ask God's forgiveness not only for the sins which she had committed, but also for those which she would have committed if God had not given her such exceptional graces.

The graces and favours which God has bestowed on us should present new reasons for being humble when we reflect on how ungratefully we have used them. Let us always remember that "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)

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