Motives of Humility
1. Humility is the most necessary and the
most difficult of the virtues. It is the most necessary because it is
the foundation of the entire Christian edifice of spiritual perfection.
No stable structure can be built without a firm foundation.
virtue is also necessary because God gives His grace only to the humble,
and without His grace we can gain no supernatural merit. “God resists
the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) Humility is,
moreover, the most difficult of the virtues. It is hard to renounce
one's possessions and give them away to the poor in accordance with the
evangelical counsel. It is harder to renounce one's wayward instincts
and passions. It is even harder, however, to renounce one's own ego with
all its immoderate desires. Nevertheless, this is what Christian
humility demands of us. We must deny ourselves and acknowledge our
nothingness. We must recognise that it is folly to glory in things which
do not belong to us, but are merely gifts from God.
necessary to practise the virtue of humility continually if we are to
become humble. For this purpose it is useful to meditate on the motives
which should inspire us to humble ourselves both before God and before
men. Our sins constitute one of these motives. All that we are and all
that we have in the physical and in the supernatural order are gifts
from our Creator and Redeemer, but sin belongs to us alone.
we ourselves who are responsible for sin, because in direct opposition
to His will we abused the faculties which God gave us. This is surely a
reason for humiliating ourselves; sin, which is an offence against God
and is our spiritual ruination, is the only thing which we can claim as
properly belonging to us. Unfortunately, we have committed innumerable
sins in thought, word, deed, and omission; alone and in public, by day
and by night, as children and as adults; against the commandments of
God, against the precepts of the Church, and against the obligations of
our state in life. Our whole existence has been marred by offences and
acts of ingratitude against God, our greatest Benefactor.
Another motive for humility is our deficiency in virtue. We have
received many gifts from God, but what use have we made of them? We have
received gifts of nature and of grace, good inspirations, good example,
and precious time and opportunity for doing good. On those occasions
when the voice of God spoke most clearly in our hearts, we made good
resolutions and promised to abandon sin and to walk with greater fervour
in the way of perfection. Unfortunately, however, we continue to lag
behind. This is a new motive for humbling ourselves and for beseeching
from God the gift of perseverance.
3. Finally, there is the
transient nature of mortal life. One illness is enough to carry us to
the grave, there to rot and to be eaten by worms. It is sufficient for
the capillary vessel of the brain to be burst in order to render us
incapable of forming a single thought or of uttering a single word. We
imagine that we are very important, whereas in fact we are insignificant
before God and before the mighty universe. Let us do our best,
therefore, to be humble. If we can become as little children, God will
be pleased with us and will make us members of His kingdom. “Unless you
turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the
kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:3)
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