“… learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…” Matthew 11:29
Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello of India once said, “In your land it is regarded as a miracle if God does someone’s will. In our country it is regarded as a miracle if someone does the will of God.” In this spirit, we humble ourselves to a greater call, for a greater good. With a humble spirit, we focus our priority on the finest values of our faith, like loving-kindness, as we have discussed this week. Humility keeps us grounded in what we believe.
The word humble comes from the Latin “humus,” meaning ground or earth. Feet firmly planted. “Down to earth,” as they say. Humility impedes any inflation of ego or pride that lifts us off that grounding. It resists distractions into vanity or self-absorption. There is less need to claim the stage for ourselves, to make it about us. With humility, we can be there for others with compassion. Saint Catherine of Siena expressed it in a way that translates across the centuries, “No virtue can have life in it except from charity, and charity is nursed and mothered by humility.”
Peter encouraged in his epistle, “… clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another…” (I Peter 5:5) In the same spirit, the word ministry comes from the Latin “minor” which literally translates lessor. Anyone who engaged in a personal ministry, ordained or not, is one who serves another. Ministry, in all its areas, is a humble form of service.
In the field of advertising it is understood that everyone listens to one radio station: WII-FM. What’s in it for me? The attitude of humility, in contrast, is what’s in it for you? Those who are humble know who they are, feel solid about it, and have no need for the moment to be about them. “… learn from me,” Jesus said, “for I am gentle and humble in heart…” (Matthew 11:29)
I am reminded of that tense scene from the scriptures, when a heated discussion broke out among the disciples over the future seating arrangements on the dais in the Kingdom of Heaven. The other disciples were unhappy after the request had been made that perhaps James and John could be seated at Jesus’ right and at his left. Can’t you just see Jesus’ expression? I picture him looking down, his head slowly shaking. How badly they didn’t get it. It was in that moment Jesus redefined what greatness really means. “… whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.” (Matthew 20:28)
Jesus’ kind of greatness requires humility. Humility is about submitting to a greater cause – and thus connecting us to our deepest selves.
Prayer: Create a humble heart in me, O Lord, seeking first your will for my life. In Christ name. Amen.