On Being Small

It hasn’t happened in the US yet, but a person can get arrested for simply going outside. That’s the word from Amman, Jordan, according to my stepson and his wife, who, along with virtually every other inhabitant of this world are being affected by the presence of COVID-19. The Coronovirus, as the bug is known, has made an unprecedented impact us. From my perch, I am still working, but coming home and staying home (voluntarily), save for the occasional run to the local grocery store. And being an introverted fellow, it has been a comparatively easy task to find things to do in and around the house. It is at this time that Jesus calls me, as He may be calling many Christians, to do some interior work on ourselves. I’d like to think of it as the Lord’s homeschooling directive.

For daily use…

Of all the things we can learn from the example of Jesus, humility is what He specifically calls us to learn: “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Matt.11:29). This is not to be understood as a discrete part of the overall Catholic lifestyle, mind you; it is the whole of it. Christ wasn’t just humble, you see; He embodied it; He was, and is, humility itself. We need to remember this, as humility isn’t a single idea from a litany of ideas. It’s the bedrock, the foundation of our life.

From the Book of Numbers, chapter 12, verse 3, we read: “Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth. Read that again. You read it right. Moses was not only a humble man, but he was the pinnacle of humility in his day. Wow! When I read that, it makes me doubt my own humility. What I mean is: How do we know if the humility we think we have is real humility? It could be that the only reason we evince a virtue is because we haven’t had the temptations to display the opposite. Or, it could be our temperament is fairly even-tempered, or there are worldly restraints. In other words: “I’m good because I haven’t been able to prove otherwise, yet.”

Gimme a slice of that pie…

Even though you won’t find humility as a choice trait on a professional resume, you would be remiss to discount it. It should be enough that Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, exemplifies it, or that Moses, arguably the greatest of OT personages led the way in his day with that virtue, but in case it isn’t, St. Thomas Aquinas, the par excellence Doctor of the Church, once called humility the, “greatest good.” I know I’m dropping names like your local insurance salesman (personal note: I once sold insurance for a living), but when a mind like Aquinas taps humility as the peak of goodness, then I’m all in. And you should be too. It’s true; Thomas Aquinas frequently loved a piece of humble pie. Ok, enough about him for now.

We know it’s not easy being humble. Please, no jokes from my readership at this point. But there is no way around it. If you love Jesus, you’ll want to be like Him. And if you want to be like HIm, you’ll soon find your ego gets in the way too many times. That’s why there’s life in all of its glorious manifestations! We have to remember that whatever is easy, on our way to heaven, is usually not worth acquiring, and humility is not easy, and never will be.

Can I encourage you to relax at this point?

Hear this: virtues, like humility, do not come from our efforts; they come from God (Jo.1:13). Oh, there’s plenty of work making our way to heaven. Discipleship always involves a cross, and that cross you and I have to shoulder every day requires, among other things, humility, if we are to bear up under the load. Our Heavenly Father loves us so crazily, however, that when we make the slightest effort at obeying Him, He enlists all the power of His kingdom to help us.

Breathing easier yet?

Did you know that a man like King David was also prone to doubt and fear in his life? What? Haven’t you ever read the Psalms? David was no stranger to trouble in his life. He had to face down more than one Goliath before he hung up his crown. Please note this one doubt he voiced: “Will God then cast off forever” (Ps.76:8)? Even a cursory reading of David’s life from the Scriptures tells us that he asked this same question – if not in these same words – over and over again. So, stop complaining.

Is this going somewhere?

Look, if you had a hard time before we all got sent to our rooms, you’re probably tearing your hair out by now. Before you are completely bald, though, please use the time you have for a good, eternal end. There’s only so many soaps you can sit through, and we’ve already memorized the script to every episode of Gilligan’s Island a long time ago (yes, there were scripts). Why not reach out by reaching down? Go deep. There are, after all, two ends to every ladder. It’s not always about being big. St. Bernard of Clairvaux once said: “What we love, we shall grow to resemble.” The coming days and nights can be that much brighter, even happier when you and I begin to look a little more like Jesus. And when we look more like Him, we are beginning on the road to humility. It is a way; a way of perfection, and it lies in the shadow of His Cross. I’ll end by quoting one of my most loved saints, Gregory of Nyssa: “He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that that have no end.” You and I know who is waiting for us at the end.

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