Humility | A Homily by St. Josemaria Escriva
Let us consider for a moment the texts of today’s Mass, Tuesday in Passion Week, for they will help us to distinguish ‘true godliness’ from ‘false godliness’. We shall be speaking about humility, for this is the virtue which helps us to recognise, at one and the same time, both our wretchedness and our greatness.
Our wretchedness is all too evident. I am not here referring to our natural limitations, to those great ambitions that people dream of but, in fact, never achieve, if only for lack of time. I am thinking rather of the things we do badly, of our falls, of the mistakes that could have been avoided and were not. We are continually experiencing our personal inadequacies. Moreover, there are times when it seems as if all our failings come together, as if wanting to show themselves more clearly, to make us realise just how little we are worth. When that happens, what are we to do?
Expecta Dominum, hope in the Lord. Live by hope, full of faith and love, the Church says to us. Viriliter age, be of good heart. What does it matter that we are made of clay, if all our hope is placed in God? And if at a certain moment you should fall or suffer some setback (not that it has to happen), all you have to do is to apply the remedy, just as, in the normal course of events, you would do for the sake of your bodily health. And then: off to a fresh start!
Haven’t you noticed the way families look after valuable ornaments or decorative pieces, a vase for example; how they take care lest it get broken? Until one day the baby happens to be playing nearby and knocks it over. The precious souvenir is dashed to pieces, and all the family are very upset. But they immediately set about repairing it. The pieces are gathered up and carefully glued together, and in the end it is restored to its former beauty.
However, when the broken object is a simple piece of crockery or just a piece of earthenware, it is usually enough to get some simple rivets, clips of iron or other metal, to bind the fragments together. The pot or vessel thus repaired takes on an original charm of its own.
We can apply this lesson to our own interior life. When we are faced with weaknesses and sins, with our mistakes even though, by God’s grace, they be of little account — let us turn to God our Father in prayer and say to him, ‘Lord, here I am in my wretchedness and frailty, a broken vessel of clay. Bind me together again, Lord, and then, helped by my sorrow and by your forgiveness, I shall be stronger and more attractive than before!’ What a consoling prayer, which we can say every time something fractures this miserable clay of which we are made.
Let us not be surprised to discover our frailty. Let it not come as a shock to see how easily our good behaviour breaks down, for little or no reason. Have confidence in the Lord, whose help is always at hand. ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?’ No one. If we approach our heavenly Father in this way, we will have no grounds for fearing anyone or anything.
Listening to God
If we turn to Sacred Scripture we will see that humility is absolutely necessary when we are making ready to listen to God. ‘Where there is humility, there is wisdom’, says the book of Proverbs. Humility means looking at ourselves as we really are, honestly and without excuses. And when we realise that we are worth hardly anything, we can then open ourselves to God’s greatness: it is there our greatness lies.
How well Our Lady, Jesus’ Holy Mother, understood this! She, the most exalted of all God’s creatures that have existed or ever will exist upon this earth! Mary glorifies the power of Our Lord, who ‘has put down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted the lowly’. And she sings of how his divine providence has once again been fulfilled in her: ‘because he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid, behold henceforth all generations shall call me blessed’.
Mary becomes transformed in holiness in the depths of her most pure heart on seeing the humility of God: ‘the Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you; and therefore the Holy One to be born of you shall be called the Son of God’. The Blessed Virgin’s humility is a consequence of that unfathomable depth of grace which comes into operation with the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity in the womb of his ever Immaculate Mother.
“Humility” is an excerpt from the homily given by St Josemaria Escriva on April 6th, 1965. The homily is published by Scepter Publishers in the book “Friends of God”.