The Way of Humility

The Way of Humility

Working with the Holy Spirit we continue to build up the glory to which we are destined as Body of Christ, so that, at the end of time, we may be as glorious as Jesus Christ, our Head, is.

On the first Sunday of Advent we were invited by Jesus to work on our glorification through watchfulness to be heartened by signs of his presence among us and in us; and, thus, to face boldly and redress any situation hindering such glorification. Today, we are invited to rediscover the crucial virtue of humility in the pursuit of eternal glory by considering concrete examples of humble, docile conduct.

A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hillshall be made low; The rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed. (Isaiah 40:3-5)

The glory of the Lord and, consequently, the glory of us as Body of the Lord, united with him, will be achieved through humility. As we become a bit more aware of these subtle presences, we realize that the “highway”which we are all called to prepare is not for our personal convenience or interest but, rather, exclusively for the Lord to come and take full possession of our minds and hearts so that, ultimately, we may have a share in his endless glory.

This “highway” is to be built in the desert. By its very nature, the desert forces us to forget about going it alone: we acknowledge that to make it we need considerable help from above. The desert is the quiet, silent environment into which God leads us so that we may be in a constant dependency mode of the One whose every word is life-giving. This also entails that we ought to have enough humility to avoid drawing any attention upon ourselves and, instead, allow God to shape us as he sees fit in view of our glorification.

Speaking of which, what might pass for devotion and zeal could be refined arrogance and the poor disguise of a rebellious spirit. Also, the crooked paths, the rugged land, and the rough country can show lack of humility. They are indicative of how we might work hard and for a long time to get around any aspects of God’s will that collide with our personal preferences or might reveal the extent of our self-interest.

Obviously, we can all readily grasp that the “mountains” and “hills” to be lowered are the ones of cases in which our arrogance and hubris are in full display, undeniable, embarrassing, unmistakably revealing our true nature. However, the call to genuine humility extends also to the “valleys” of our inner attitude and behavior because, if there were no mountains and hills, there wouldn’t be any valleys and lowlands either.

Question: could it be that we turned down potentially embarrassing engagements and activities because we did not want to face the danger of failure? Those would clearly be valleys generated by pride and/or false humility. Realizing how pride and arrogance can hide even in seemingly holy endeavors and in innocent activities, we should turn now to John the Baptist, a shining icon of true humility.

John walks even physically into the desert of silence and attentive listening to God. He shows a total absence of “valleys” for he is fully engaged in carrying out his mission as herald of Christ, and undaunted in the face of possible failures. In his conduct, John is perfectly consistent with what he lives inside, in his mind and heart. There are no crooked ways in him.

John has no “mountains” either. He is perfectly comfortable carrying out his humble role of precursor of the One mightier than himself, and whose sandal straps he considers himself unworthy to loosen. Candidly, John says that he uses simple water for his baptism while preparing the way for the One who will be baptizing with Holy Spirit. John clearly shows us that humility is the only sure way to glory. It was such for Jesus; it will be such for every single one of us. 

The humble shall be exalted (Matthew 23:12), we are told by him. But how is it so? What are the required, logical steps from humility to glory, to “the second coming of Christ,” to our glorification as Body of Christ?

We should simply look at the process adopted by the Church in the canonization of any potential saint. The inquiry is always about humility. It is so because humility makes one acquire the inner disposition of Christ, of considering others as more important than oneself and of placing their wellbeing ahead of one’s own. Humility is therefore indispensable for loving God horizontally (loving our neighbor, enemies and persecutors included). 

And love is the litmus test for eternal glorification. Especially during Advent, the way of humility is on full display all around us, lived by John the Baptist, by Mary, by Jesus, by all the saints and now, by any person of goodwill who hopes for a share of eternal glory.

Today, in John the Baptist, we contemplated one concrete, eloquent example of humility, while we perceived the subtle, comforting presence of our God so humble in his love for us all that, in the fulness of time, he assumed human flesh. It might take a long while for us to wrap our heads around this astonishing realization!

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Written by
Fr Dino Vanin