The Grace of Humility

Matthew 18: 1-5,10,12-14
Deut 31: 1-8 / Deut 32

Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 18:4)

If like a child we seek God’s embrace,
Empty our heart of the sin of pride;
And if we want it filled with His grace,
Let Christ’s humility there reside.

One time, the disciples approached Jesus and asked Him, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom He put in their midst, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, their angels in heaven continually look upon the face of my heavenly Father. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.” (Matthew 18:1-5,10,12-14)

Reflection

Today is the feast day of St. Clare, virgin and foundress of The Poor Clares Order. Greatly influenced by St. Francis of Assisi, she renounced her noble birth and all her possessions (donating them to charity) to lead a life of extreme poverty “for Christ.”
The Poor Clares lived a life of humility in extreme poverty. They went begging barefoot, and slept on the ground. They abstained from meat, and all delicacies. St. Clare promoted silence to avoid sins of the tongue (like gossiping), and for keeping the mind focused on God. Her personal mortification included wearing a rough shirt of hair next to her skin, and fasted regularly on bread and water, or ate nothing.

St. Clare must have been influenced by the first lesson of the Beatitudes, where Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt.5:3). The “Poor in spirit” are those who choose to be small in God’s eyes even if they are great among their peers; they empty themselves of worldly things in order to be filled with God’s grace. Jesus was the Incarnation of humility, first by becoming man, and secondly, by His passion and death on the cross, the most humiliating form of torture known to man.

Another great saint who also gave his life to Jesus and the service of the poor was St. Augustine. After his conversion, he sold all of his possessions and gave the money to charity, retaining only his house which became his monastery. Here are some of his thoughts on humility: “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.” “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.”… “To know Jesus is to know His humility, for He is the archetype and master of humility.” … “There would have been no salvation for us, after all, if Christ had not been prepared to humble himself for our sakes.” … “Thus the Wisdom of God, setting out to cure men, applied Himself to cure them, being at once the Physician and the Medicine. Because man fell through pride, he applied humility as a cure.” How lucidly St. Augustine explained how God’s humility and generosity were the key to our salvation.

Thus, the humility of Jesus teaches us not to be judgmental in our attitude towards others who do not share our faith or righteousness. Instead of treating them with prejudice, we must instead strive to bring them to the fold of Christ. Why not invite one to your breakfast fellowship, bible study or prayer meeting today?

We are humbled, Lord God, when we read how our Savior Jesus Christ “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Phil.2:8). May we always follow His ways even on a smaller scale. Amen.

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