John 14:10, 12 “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works….Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
Every Christian, indeed every human creature, is called to humility. Certainly as Christians, we should be always aware that we are mere creatures, miniscule fragments in the Divine imagination. Pondering on our own smallness must always lead us farther down the path of humility. Christ must increase, and we must decrease. We all know that, but implementing it is often a tricky business.
Do we even know what humility is? C.S. Lewis defined it well and concisely: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” Let us ponder that for a minute. Let’s say you have been given the gift of being able to paint beautiful paintings. Everyone raves about them. How to remain humble? By pointing out the flaws that only the artist sees? By putting yourself down when people say nice things? By comparing yourself to others more talented? Or more extremely, by hiding your paintings away for fear of becoming proud?
None of these is the way of humility. The way of humility is to paint with joy, thanking God with every brushstroke for the gift he has given you. The way of humility is to share with others the beauty that God wishes to express through you. When people praise you, to say simply, “God is the artist, I am just his instrument. I can only imitate what God has first created. I paint with paints and brushes, and paper. He can paint a sunset with light, air, water, and dirt. To God be the glory!”
God gives us gifts for his own purposes, and he means for us to use them. If we don’t make use of the gifts he has given us, we will answer for that on our day of judgment. We are duty-bound to use his gifts, but for his glory, not ours. His glory, his will, must be our only motivation to act. And no matter what we do, we must be completely detached from the results. As Jesus said, “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'” (Luke 17:10)
There are times when our work yields little in the way of results. No matter. We only do what God desires and let him worry about the results. If we cling to results we are working for our own glory, not God’s. Certainly the apostles who fled Calvary were seeking a different result. Only Jesus himself, and the few faithful souls with him, trusted completely in the Father when all appeared lost.
Jesus was completing in his death what he lived in his earthly life—humble obedience to the Father’s will. Everything he did in life and in death was in humble obedience to the Father. And we are meant to do likewise. Jesus was not after results, but only lived to do the will of the Father. It is the way of humility and something we must strive for every day. In the Scripture passage from John quoted at the beginning of this article, Jesus gives us a compelling reason to do everything in humble obedience, because the way of humility allows God to work mightily through us, to accomplish all he desires, to be willing, humble workers for the kingdom.
Here are some of our Lord’s glorious teachings to St. Faustina on the subject of humility:
“As the soul continues to immerse itself more deeply into the abyss of its nothingness and need, God uses His omnipotence to exalt it. If there is a truly happy soul upon earth, it can only be a truly humble soul. At first, one’s self-love suffers greatly on this account, but after a soul has struggled courageously, God grants it much light by which it sees how wretched and full of deception everything is.” (Diary 593)
“The floodgates of heaven are open to a humble soul, and a sea of graces flows down upon it (…). God refuses nothing to such a soul; it is all-powerful and influences the destiny of the whole world. God raises such a soul up to very throne, and the more it humbles itself, the more God stoops down to it, pursuing it with His graces and accompanying it at every moment with His omnipotence.” (Diary 1306)
“This firm resolution to become a saint is extremely pleasing to Me. I bless your efforts and will give you opportunities to sanctify yourself. Be watchful that you lose no opportunity that My providence offers you for sanctification. If you do not succeed in taking advantage of an opportunity, do not lose your peace, but humble yourself profoundly before Me and, with great trust, immerse yourself completely in My mercy. In this way, you gain more than you have lost, because more favor is granted to a humble soul than the soul itself asks for…” (Diary 1361)
We cannot overestimate the importance of humility in the devout life. The good news is that the path of humility is the path we are on in the BSP. It is the path of dying daily to self, one desire at a time, so that we can one day say with St. Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Jesus, help us to decrease so that you might increase. Help our thoughts to be always on you and not ourselves, so that your “fiat” in the Garden will be ours as well. Jesus we trust in you.