Today’s Lectionary reading from the Gospel of St. Luke is a reminder about the importance of humility. Humility is not just another nice and desirable behavioral quality for a Christian. It has been deemed so crucial to the Christian life that the Church classified it among the seven core virtues. There is nothing optional about the seven virtues. Without these virtues, spiritual life is simply impossible. In so many ways, the virtues are the multivitamins of faith. They nourish and revive our souls, our ability to live in Christ and be temples of the Holy Spirit. We know that humility is essential, but we also realize it is not fun. It is like going to a dentist. Humility is also very elusive because the moment we think we finally have it is precisely the time we don’t. So what is really humility? One of the best explanations was by C.S. Lewis when he wrote, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
Thinking less of ourselves is a hard thing to do. Our decision-making process is so influenced by the over-competitive, transactional, and consumer culture that often, before deciding or doing anything, we can’t help but start evaluating and asking ourselves, “What is there in it for me?” or “What will I get out of this?” But life, of course, is not a transaction. In this regard, humility rescues and liberates us from ourselves. Humility can open new horizons for us and give us a unique perspective of our lives and decisions. It might feel uncomfortable at first because it is hard to put ourselves in the second row, let down our guard, assumptions, and views. However, if we persist, this new view of life has the potential to take our souls to places we have not been before, feel and see the world through the lenses of humility, from God’s perspective and view.
It is also interesting to remember and reflect that before most of his miracles and healings, Christ would almost always ask the sick and suffering what they wanted him to do. And it was after the person admitted they were wounded, they were helpless and needed to be healed and restored that He would touch, heal and restore them. Therefore, it is through the act of humility that often God enters and works in our lives. It is when we accept and share our wounded state that he helps, answers our prayers and heals us.
The desert fathers, the holy men and women from the early second and third centuries referred to humility as the forerunner of love. According to them, as St. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ’s ministry, in the same way, humility leads us straight to God, to a spiritual place and domain where the living presence of the Lord fills our lives and makes us whole. And again, it was C.S. Lewis who described so beautifully this remarkable spiritual experience in his writings where he wrote, “to even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.”
May the loving Lord who humbled himself from the heavens and set the ultimate example of humility, lead us to the life-giving waters of humility. May we, too, be nourished and strengthened by his presence in our lives through humility.