Practicing virtue without humility is like carrying dust against wind.
In the Gospel according to St. Mathew 11:25-27, Jesus thanks the Father in heaven for revealing to his disciples the wisdom and knowledge of God. Jesus’ prayer tells us that God is both Father and Lord of earth as well as heaven. He is both Creator and Author of all that he has made, the first origin of everything and transcendent authority, and at the same time, goodness and loving care for all his children.
Jesus’ prayer also contains a warning that pride can keep us away from the love and knowledge of God. Pride is the inordinate love of oneself at the expense of others and the exaggerated estimation of one’s own learning and importance. Intellectual pride, coldness of heart, and stubbornness of will shut out God and his kingdom. Pride is the root of all vice and the strongest influence propelling us to sin. It first vanquishes the heart, making it cold and indifferent towards God. It also closes the mind to God’s truth and wisdom for our lives.
Jesus contrasts intellectual pride with child-like simplicity and humility. The simple of heart are like “little children” in the sense that they see purely without pretense and acknowledge their dependence and trust in the one who is greater, wiser, and more trustworthy. They seek one thing — the “summum bonum” or “greatest good” who is God himself. Simplicity of heart is wedded with humility, the queen of virtues, because humility inclines the heart towards grace and truth.
St. Teresa of Avila tells us that she obtained her greatest graces whenever she humbled herself the most. Just as pride is the root of every sin and evil, so humility is the only soil in which the grace of God can take root. It alone takes the right attitude before God and allows him as God to do all. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6). Only the humble in heart can receive true wisdom and understanding of God and his ways. We can have no virtue without humility. Practising virtue without humility is like carrying dust against the wind. It will all blow away.
Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-collector
We see it in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector. The Pharisee did many good things: he fasted twice in a week; he gave one tenth of his income to the temple. But he ruined all these with his pride. The Tax-collector did many evil things. But he was forgiven for all these and made right with God because of his humble prayer.
In this prayer, Jesus makes a claim which no one would have dared to make: He is the perfect revelation of God. One of the greatest truths of the Christian faith is that we can know the living God. Our knowledge of God is not simply limited to knowing something about God, but we can know God personally.
In Jesus we see the perfect love of God
The essence of Christianity, and what makes it distinct from Judaism and other religions, is the knowledge of God as our Father. Jesus makes it possible for each of us personally to know God as our Father. To see Jesus is to see what God is like.
In Jesus we see the perfect love of God — a God who cares intensely and who yearns over men and women, loving them to the point of laying down his life for them upon the Cross. Jesus is the revelation of God — a God who loves us completely, unconditionally and perfectly. Jesus also promises that God the Father will hear our prayers when we pray in his name. That is why Jesus taught his followers to pray with confidence, Our Father who art in heaven .. .. give us this day our daily bread. Do we pray to our Father in heaven with joy and confidence in his love and care for us?
Today, Jesus invites us to learn humility from him. He says: “Learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart.” It is especially from his Passion that we learn humility. Scourged at the pillar, crowned with thorns, mocked, spat upon, and finally nailed to the cross, he died on that infamous gallows. It was to cure us of our pride. How can we look at Jesus crucified and still be proud?
Let us often look at the Crucifix and say: “Jesus meek and humble of heart, give me the child-like simplicity and purity of faith to gaze upon your face with joy and confidence in your all-merciful love. Remove every doubt, fear, and proud thought which would hinder me from receiving your word with trust and humble submission.”
– – – written by Fr. Vincent Korandiarkunnel OSB