By Fr. Jonathan Filkin
HHumility is a strange commodity. It’s all a matter of perspective, really. Mexico City’s Roman Catholic Cathedral sits in the center of a large square city block, with wide expanses of volcanic cobblestone around it. Every day, several pilgrims will walk on their knees slowly, painfully, approaching the entrance doors; occurring only when they climbed the stairs. In the Philippines, pilgrims will reenact the sufferings of Christ on the cross. Everyone is convinced that he is humble before God.
We know that Saint Peter constantly struggled to be a humble person. We know him for having a hot temper and a strong will. We also know that Peter spoke to Christians who were and are being persecuted for their faith. It presents the theme of the believer’s salvation and the believer’s submission.
The foundation of Christian humility is a completely dependent attitude toward God and His ability to save us from our sins. We, as true Christian believers, must remain centered in the truth that we are not the center of the universe. We need to divert our focus from our selfish selves, away from our earthly situations, however important they may seem; or however painful. The fundamental belief of the committed Christian assumes that God is in supreme control of all of our lives. It is through our wholehearted trust, through our wholehearted belief in Him that we are brought into proper humility.
Consider the tragedy of the sinking of the liner “Titanic”. Passengers and crew depended entirely on the deeds of those who came before, in designing the ship, but more importantly, those who came to the rescue. They had to come to terms with the reality of too few lifeboats and ships too far away. How many decided to use their own Victorian sense of purpose, the pride of self-sufficiency aboard this “unsinkable ship”, in their plans for survival? How many more could have been saved, if the lifeboats had been placed in God’s custody and overloaded on the glassy sea? You can see that humility before God is often an act of trust, not timid flight or stoic indifference.
Being humble is not a matter of looking down or, necessarily, withdrawn. At the mere mention of Uriah Heep’s name, and hearing, “I’m just a ‘lowly clerk, Mr. Copperfield.” we envision anything but a humble man. We soon learn that Heep is, the devil, disguised as a sheep.
In our humility to God, we are empowered to resist. We stand firm in the Faith with our brothers and sisters around the world. By standing firm, we are steadfast in full confidence in our Lord and Savior and in His victory. We can be assured of two immutable truths: First, it is entirely possible for us as Christians to reject and overcome the devil. For through Jesus Christ there is eternal hope. Second, we are not isolated and left to our own struggles. To paraphrase the Irish poet John Donne, “No Christian is an island in his own right”.
Talking to us, Peter may remember the days spent fishing around Capernaum; on the Sea of Galilee, struggling with the nets and making constant repairs, facing the daily wear and tear of living for God in a hostile world. From a spiritual point of view, we are also sinners. Our beliefs, our spiritual nets, can be torn and torn by this sinful world. In prayer and contemplation, we leave this hostile earthly environment and commune with God in the quiet of our hearts, minds and souls; to refresh, restore and renew.
If today we are a little embarrassed by our weaknesses, or our helplessness, let us remember that a regular personal divine action will solve this need. Open ourselves fully to God and his mercy will drive away the darkness. Strength comes from the regular exercise of our spiritual muscle; no less than the physical and moral muscles. Daily experiences, supplemented by appropriate humility and understanding, will enable each Christian to grow ever stronger with his Creator.