How can an all-powerful God be humble?
In Lent we remember the journey of our Lord Jesus that led to His suffering and death on the Cross and ultimately to His resurrection from the dead. He did it all for us. The Almighty, Omnipotent (all-powerful), Omniscient (all-knowing), Eternal God became human, not to be served but to serve; not to be loved, but to love; not to be honored, but to give honor to His Heavenly Father and to reveal to us our true dignity as children of God.
“Who, though He was in the form of God did not regard equality with God something to be grasped, rather He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8).
How humble Jesus was and still is. On the night before He entered His suffering and passion, He was not thinking of Himself. He thought of His disciples. He washed their feet and even instituted a New Covenant with them by the sacrifice of His own Body and Blood. So great was the humility of Jesus, that He found all ways possible to serve us.
How is the Eucharist an act of humility?
One of the greatest gifts that reveals the humility of Jesus is the Eucharist. Jesus lowers Himself to become our very food – our daily Bread for our journey to God. He is the Bread that has come down from heaven to give life to the world. He becomes so little in order that we can approach Him. Our God has become our heavenly manna. In the Eucharist, we know that the love He has for us is revealed in the sacrifice He made for us. It is hard for us to even begin to grasp this kind of humility let alone imitate it. But we must if we ever hope to enter the presence of God. Jesus said, “Thus, the last will be first and the first be last,” (Matthew 20:16) and “ ... unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) Arrogance and pride have no home in heaven.
How does humility help us spiritually?
Our spiritual fitness this issue is to practice humility. Humility calls us to know more fully who we are in and before God. We began Lent with Ash Wednesday. It is a holy day that certainly marks us as Catholics and calls us to repent and remember that we came from the dust and ashes on our foreheads. All people can identify with this. I heard one pastor in New York say how people of different faiths would approach priests distributing ashes in the subways and ask if they could receive ashes, too! Why? Because – thank God – people know inwardly that we need God’s help and mercy every day. That is humility.
For our spiritual fitness this month, here are some ways to practice humility. First, we need to have a clearer understanding of what humility is in our lives. Pride completely blinds us to humility, and humility cloaks itself lest pride rear its ugly head. So, to think about humility in our lives, we can meditate on:
1 Scripture that focuses on humility
John 6:32-71; 13:1-20; 19:10--30; 21:4-14
Mark 10:42-45; 14:22-26
Luke 10:21-37; 12:35-37; 17:7-10
2 Humility means we will be able to admit our sin to God and to others. Examine your life with brutal honesty in terms of the Ten Commandments and teachings of Jesus. Admit your sin to God and to others. Go to the sacrament of reconciliation. If you are not used to going, that can be a truly humbling experience. Humility before God leads to repentance. Read Psalm 51.
3 Go and spend some time with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus was so humble that He lowered Himself to become our Bread of Life.
4 Put together your last will and testament. Humility means we remember that we are dust, and unto dust we all must return. Read Luke 2:16-21.
5 Find some way to serve others. Go to the local nursing home or shelter and offer your services. Volunteer to clean the church. Put on the mind of Christ who came to serve, not to be served.
The word humility comes from the root word humus – it is the good stuff of the earth that allows plants to grow strong. Humus is organic matter that has decayed and broken down, and through the process has been transformed into something life-giving! So, too, when the virtue of humility is formed in us. Humility means we die to our prideful self and put others people before ourselves. Humility with love moves us to serve others.
6 Humility means accepting that God is God and we are not. Humility is the virtue of honest self-assessment and self-emptying. Pray the following Litany of Humility:
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, O Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. Litany of Humility by Merry Cardinal del Val, secretary of state to Pope St. Pius X – from the Prayer Book for Jesuits, 1963