That isn’t a typo….that is the answer that St Francis de Sales gave to the head of a religious order who asked him what is the key to holiness. He gave this answer shortly before his own death, and it was constantly on his lips. In his book, “Overcoming Sinful Anger”, Rev. T.G. Morrow tells us:
“St Augustine wrote, ‘If you ask me what is the most essential element in the teaching and morality of Jesus Christ, I would answer you: the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is humility.'” Morrow goes on to state: “Humility is praised about 25 times in Scripture; the humble are praised about 48 times. Pride is held in contempt 103 times in Scripture; the proud are disdained about 68 times. If there was ever a foundational virtue to strive for, it is humility.” Doing the math, that’s 244 mentioned in the realm of this virtue, that’s not too far from what is commonly argued to be as important as the scripture’s references to not being afraid, which some say is 365. (These are both arguable numbers mentioned only to underline the importance of these Christian virtues.)
The way this virtue alludes me is constantly on my spirit, and a real flesh and blood battle over my will this Lent. The last two prayer meetings we have had, our “Encounters with Christ”, praying over the upcoming Sunday gospel, have been all about humility, as I suppose many of the Lent readings should be. This week, we read in the gospel of John (9:1-38) where Jesus is healing the blind beggar man with clay made from dirt and saliva, and then sends him to rinse off in the Pool of Siloam, and after he did so, he was miraculously able to see.
There are so many gems in this gospel, as with all the gospel readings, but what the Holy Spirit seemed to particularly bring to light as we prayed, was once again, faith through humility. Highlights in our reflections were as follows (as given by various members of our group);
- “No, it just looks like him”…referring to the blind man, the people didn’t believe that he had been healed. They were unwilling to be convinced that such a miracle could have occurred. How many times have I overlooked a miracle in my life? How many times have I been neglectful to be willing to witness to the miraculous in my life, no matter what others may think of me, or what it may cost me?
- “I do believe Lord”. Jesus asked the blind man if he believed he was the Son of Man, and this man believed instantly. Are we quick to believe the good things in our lives were performed by God so readily? Surely we would stop, hesitate, doubt. But this man’s humility was evidenced by his miracle. As we have seen so many times in the bible, where there is no faith, there can be no miracle.
- This man’s humility was the key to his faith to believe that the healing he received was from Christ. Because this man had lived a life of humility–blind, begging, and looked down upon by everyone, who believed that his blindness was brought upon him by his own sins, or those of his parents–he had no pride or false sense of self to roadblock his faith. The fruit of his faith, was again, founded in humility.
As you may have read, our last meeting ended with a resolution to recite the Litany of Humility throughout the week, which I admit I did sparsely, once because I made a visit to the chapel, and I was able to silence my soul just enough for the Holy Spirit to say “Don’t forget your resolution”…So I pulled it up on my Laudate app on my phone, in true saintly fashion, and prayed away my pride (sarcasm because I don’t know any saints who pulled out cellies in the chapel).
To truly understand how to cultivate a sense of humility in our lives, that bears fruit to faith and love, I must again bring to light my ongoing endeavor to understand this virtue in my own life with my virtue card from our retreat:
Humility: is the virtue that enables us to restrain the inordinate desire for our own excellence, giving us a true evaluation of our smallness before God. True humility enables us to see ourselves as we are in the eyes of God, not exaggerating our good qualities and not denying the gifts we have received from God.
Prayer: O Jesus, You who were so humiliated for us, teach me how to practice true humility.
“It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures.” St Andre Bessette.