Twenty Second Sunday: Humility, the Cross and Salvation

Perform your tasks with humility….To the humble the Lord reveals His secrets…By the humble He is glorified (Cf. Sir. 3: 17-20). ⧾

The lessons of the Mass invite us to ponder the virtue of humility, the very foundation of our spiritual life, and of an authentic human life. The word itself is a derivative of the Latin word for earth, humus. A humble person is grounded in reality; in his or her own reality and of course, in the truth of God. A humble person knows his place in the grand scale of things. A humble person does not burn with the lust of domination (libido dominandi). Humility is truth. A humble person can readily acknowledge his accomplishments, never losing sight of God our Heavenly Father, whose goodness has bestowed on us our abilities and talents. The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself (Sir. 3:18). Humility enables us to avoid the seductions of the world and its spirit. Similarly, humility enables us to guard against the utopian nightmares that social engineers who seem to be untouched by any awareness of human reality are madly endeavouring to inflict upon us. Yes, as odd as it may sound, humility is our best line of defence in the struggle of our times. What calamity befalls someone proud; there is no healing, for an evil plant has taken root in them. The humble however, find favour in the sight of the Lord.

A humble and therefore truthful assessment of things as they really are frees us from the illusions of what cannot be or may never be. It is impossible to have a true relationship with God without the practice of humility for to the humble the Lord reveals His secrets. Likewise, it is impossible to have a true and healthy relationship with the world around us if we are blinded by pride.

Our liturgical calendar is richly endowed with the memorials of the saints, lights for the world in their several generations. The saints, as we, bore the great treasure of our faith, our relationship with God, in vessels of clay, (2 Cor. 4:7). What this means is that they, like us, also struggled with sin and its effects; with temptations to pride and perhaps, the most subtle of temptations, the illusion of moral self-sufficiency. Nevertheless, all the saints ultimately share one common characteristic, humility. They knew their place. It is said that in Heaven there are Saints who committed every sin, except the sin of pride. By the humble He is glorified. Likewise in Hell there are souls who practised every virtue, except the virtue of humility. When calamity befalls someone proud, there is no healing.

Today, the Martyrology, the Book of Saints and Martyrs commemorates one of the greatest intellects of all time, St Augustine of Hippo, the North African Bishop and Doctor of the Church who died on this day in 430. To say that he was brilliant is an understatement. The Confessions, his autobiography, is an account of his search for truth and wisdom, effectively for meaning and for purpose, and for integrity of life.  His autobiography is an account of man’s search for truth and it is rightly considered one of the greatest literary classics of all time. In what can be described as a torturous intellectual and moral journey, he, the gifted intellectual, at last acknowledges the necessity of the virtue of humility: I sought a way to obtain strength enough to enjoy you; but I did not find it until I embraced ‘the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus….To possess my God, the humble Jesus, I was not yet humble enough. I did not know what his weakness was meant to teach (VII. xviii 24).

‘Learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart’ (Mt. 11:28). Our Lord invites all His disciples to the same school, regardless of our age or abilities. Our discipleship is a lifelong endeavour, and the goal of our relationship with God is that Christ Our Lord be formed in us; that we might be transformed into His likeness, that we might have the heart and mind of Christ. This transformative union is brought about principally through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is both the feast and school of faith. The Sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross is a lesson in humility. Here we endeavour to learn Christ (Eph. 4:20) and we make our own the science and wisdom of the Cross. Another great philosopher and saint, this one of the twentieth century, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross spoke of the science of the Cross. In a meditation from 1939 for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, this Carmelite Martyr wrote these timeless words: The Saviour hangs before you with a pierced heart…. The world is in flames. The conflagration can also reach our house. But high above all flames towers the Cross. They cannot consume it. It is the path from earth to heaven. It will lift one who embraces it in faith, love and hope into the bosom of the Trinity.

It is no exaggeration to say that our world is also in flames, though not because of climate change. It is in flames because the architects of a utopian ‘green world’ have unilaterally and proudly decided that the way things are, is flawed or to use their word, unsustainable; and for this reason, a complete transformation is necessary – the great reset. And once achieved, humanity can enter a Utopia – a world in which, again in their own words, you will own nothing and be happy. The totalitarian ideologies of Fascism, Nazism and Communism and in our day, climate alarmism, a medical dictatorship or whatever term one may use to describe the attempted enslavement of humanity, these are all utopian experiments that have their origin in man’s pride. And this latest experiment will also fail, but not without a great deal of needless suffering.

Let us therefore resolve here and now, engaged as we are in the most important activity of the week, to perform all our tasks with humility; confident that in doing so, we will give glory to God and find favour in the sight of the Lord. The Cross is the power of God and the wisdom of God; and those who endeavour to follow and to learn from the humble Saviour will neither be lost nor put to shame; for the Lord guards the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish (Ps. 1:6). May the example of the saints, especially St Augustine, whose search for truth led him to the gentle and humble Saviour, encourage us to live and to worship with humility of spirit. Let us then follow Christ’s paths which He has revealed to us, above all the path of humility, which He himself became for us (St. Augustine, Sermo 23A, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. IV, p. 189).