When I think of humility as I look back on my 55 years of life, what stirs in my heart and mind is how much humble people and our humble God have inspired me.
I think of my parents who came from humble beginnings in farm families trying to get settled in America. Neither of them liked having to speak in public or be on church committees, but they loved just being on the farm doing their daily tasks as farmers. As country school students for most of their education years and the need to work hard to get ahead, they learned the value of humble beginnings, humble lifestyles, and a humble disposition before God.
When I think of humility, I think of my severely disabled uncle Donnie who humbly needed someone else to feed him, help him go to the bathroom, even bathe him. His humble need helped me to eventually discover that while I can do the things he couldn’t, he taught me that realizing everything we have is a gift from God often shared through others.
He also taught me that if we offer “what little we have” (everything), God makes those little offerings into great spiritual and material gifts fruitful. I know first hand the incredible power of Donnie’s humble prayers that continue to produce incredible spiritual fruits in my life.
When I think of people who choose to be humble, I think of the many men and women in my life who have lived humble lives: my aunts who took vows of poverty, the religious sisters and lay men and women who taught me in school or college with no or little pay. I think of the humble parishioners I have met through the years who humbly share their time, talent and treasure for the glory of God, the good of the church or others.
I think the men and women who let God’s gifts to them radiate throughout the world, like St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. John Paul II and others, show us in little or big ways how to live in the truth that everything we have and are is because of God’s gracious blessings. They freely share those blessings in the way God has planned for their lives whether that be the disabled, the consecrated, lay or clergy men and women who give all the glory to God and live and share in their poverty so God can use our littleness to bring about His greatness through each of us.
The most humble of all beings is God who, out of love, created us in His image and likeness, humbled Himself to become man in the person of Jesus to suffer and die for our sins, and the Holy Spirit who continues to pour forth grace into the hearts of those who are humble enough to realize all is gift from our great God. May God in His greatness and humility help us to live in the truth of how much He loves us and give us all good things so that in our humility His greatness can shine throughout the world to the glory of His goodness.
In a simple way, I think of humility as the awareness that everything we have and who we are is because God blessed us with that “everything.” Pride, on the other hand, is when we take credit for the good things God has blessed us with, or we, in false humility, don’t acknowledge the truth that those good things in and through us are because of God’s giftedness to us.
The truth of who we are is as God knows us to be. Pride, on the other hand, is to believe we are something other than what we really are or to take credit for something that God has given us but we take the credit for it.
Let us follow the example of Our Blessed Mother, Mary. According to St. John Paul II, the foundation of her holiness was her deep humility: she was “fully aware of her own littleness before the greatness of God. In the truth Mary beholds herself, others and the world” (homily for All Saints Day, November 1, 2000). Let us follow her example and see all things, including ourselves, with the Lord’s vision.