By Robin Gomes
According to St. Paul, people are wise when they are humble and are humble when they are wise, and that a true estimate of ourselves is to recognize our nothingness. In its most profound meaning, humility belongs only to Jesus, the Truth, said Capuchin priest Father Raniero Cantalamessa in his Lenten meditation. The preacher of the papal household delivers a reflection every Friday during the Lenten season to Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia.
God punishes pride as untruth
Speaking about the virtue of Christian humility from the perspective of St. Paul, Fr. Cantalamessa said that a genuinely humble person lives according to truth, and God punishes pride because it is untruth, a lie. By humbling himself, a human being comes closer to the truth, which is God Himself. According to the reasoning of St. Paul, the only thing that I have not received, that is completely mine, is sin whose source is in me and not in God.
When Jesus says, “Without me you can do nothing,” it means that a true estimate of ourselves is to recognize our nothingness, Fr. Cantalmessa said. When we examine ourselves and discover the truth that we are radically proud, which is our fault and not God’s, because we have misused our freedom, it is indeed humility.
Humility opens up to others
Fr. Cantalamessa recalled St. Angela of Foligno who urged her sisters to enter the inner cell of our being in order to recognize our nothingness, not to close ourselves in giving in to self-centeredness and narcissism, but to open up to others, where we no longer see the defects in our neighbours.
Mary, model of humility-truth
In this regard, Fr. Cantalmessa said, Mary is the unsurpassed model of humility-truth. This is evident in her canticle, the “Magnificat”, which does not speak about her humility but her humble state. The humility of the Mother of God, who didn’t even exalt herself above the humblest creature, is indeed a masterpiece of God’s grace. Those truly humble don’t believe they are humble, and people who think they are humble are not.
Humility and humiliation
Fr. Cantalmesa went further to say that humility also entails being humiliated. Our humility is real when we accept reproofs, corrections, criticism, and humiliations. According to the author of The Imitation of Christ, when others reproach us knowing our defects, they help us remain humble. On the other hand, vainglory is condemned by Jesus who said, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
The Capuchin priest also warned that vainglory can transform even our striving for humility into an act of pride, but with grace we can come out victorious even from this terrible battle.
Speaking about the “thorn in the flesh” of St. Paul, he said that all have them. It could be a defect, an illness, a weakness, a powerlessness, a persisting humiliating temptation or even an unpleasant person. They all speak about our frailty and demolish our self-conceit. Humility, he added, is also important for the proper functioning of the community life and for building up the Church.