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It Begins with an H
By Bryan Thatcher, MD (Jul 18, 2013)
Humility — paramount to spiritual growth — is the virtue of recognizing our dependence on God, and also the virtue most pleasing to God.
On the Feast of The Immaculate Conception, St. Faustina saw the Blessed Mother who said to her, "I desire, My dearly beloved daughter, that you practice the three virtues that are dearest to me — and most pleasing to God. The first is humility, humility, and once again humility; the second virtue, purity; the third virtue, love of God. As My daughter, you must especially radiate with these virtues. When the conversation ended, She pressed me to Her Heart and disappeared" (Diary, 1415). On another occasion, St. Faustina wrote "humility, humility, and ever humility, as we can do nothing of ourselves; all is purely and simply God's grace" (Diary, 55).
The Blessed Mother gave a beautiful example of humility at the Incarnation when she replied, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38). While Mary wondered how all this could be as she had no husband, she recognized God's will. She did not answer with false humility saying, "I could never do that as I am not worthy," but instead, with true humility, she gave a "Yes!" for she realized that it was God's plan, and that with God all things are possible.
Saying no to God's plan for us is false pride, not humility. Even St. Faustina struggled with doubts that she could accomplish all that the Lord was asking.
She wrote, "During a meditation on humility, an old doubt returned: that a soul as miserable as mine could not carry out the task which the Lord was demanding [of me]. Just as I was analyzing this doubt, the priest who was conducting the retreat interrupted his train of thought and spoke about the very thing I was having doubts about; namely, that God usually chooses the weakest and simplest souls as tools for His greatest works; that we can see that this is an undeniable truth when we look at the men He chose to be His apostles; or again, when we look at the history of the Church and see what great works were done by souls that were the least capable of accomplishing them; for it is just in this way that God's works are revealed for what they are, the works of God. When my doubt had completely disappeared, the priest resumed his conference on humility" (Diary, 464).
Humility can be a positive fruit of a trial and tribulation as one journeys down the winding and tortuous road of life. Such a trial or crisis might include the death of a loved one, alcoholism, financial ruin, or any one of life's disasters that we may face.
Prior to the crisis, one thinks, "life is great!" At this point in time, there is little need for God. However, when troubles begin, the soul begins to question, "Is this what life is about?" It is at this vulnerable time in life that one begins to see the lunacy of materialism, consumerism, and the world's all-consuming vice of pride. The soul wonders "How did I get myself into this mess? Or "Why me, what did I do to deserve this?"
As the soul tries to cope and handle the stress of the crisis, it can choose to rely on old methods that have previously failed, or it can turn to God and ask for help. If it turns to God, a stage of conversion or purgation and spiritual growth results. As the soul struggles to find itself, the saying "when the student is ready, the teacher can teach" rings ever true. The soul has a burning desire to get closer to God, and yet it is afraid, as it wonders, "Will God accept me? Will He take me back?" It is these souls that God receives with open arms and a compassionate heart.
Our Lord reminds us that He did "not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Lk 5:32). As the soul begins the arduous task of healing and moving forward, it begins to grow and cleanse itself of the superfluous excess baggage that it has accumulated. With that purging evolves a desire to do only the will of God in this life.
Even though the spirit is strong, the flesh is weak. The soul still falls into old ways and sins. Discouragement ensues as it sees little spiritual progress. It realizes that because of sin, it needs to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and seek peace with God.
Saint Faustina encouraged openness and honesty when we go to the Sacrament, writing, "A soul does not benefit as it should from the sacrament of confession if it is not humble. Pride keeps it in the darkness. The soul neither knows how, nor is it willing, to probe with precision the depths of its own misery. It puts on a mask and avoids everything that might bring it recovery" (Diary, 113). These last words ring of truth; the soul avoids the discomfort of probing the depths of its misery, and by doing so, it stays in the same rut and does not spiritually grow. We all put on masks, yet the God of Mercy can read our hearts. We are only fooling ourselves, not God. It is when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable that God, as the Great Physician, can heal us.
In today's world of consumerism and materialism, humility is often viewed as a sign of weakness. Being meek and humble of heart is not a weakness! Scripture tells us "...whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Mt 23:12). But do we really believe it, and even more importantly, do we practice it?
Let us reflect on what areas in our life we need to grow in humility, always recognizing that we are made in His image and likeness. Let us live that humility by being vessels and icons of mercy to a hurting world.
Dr. Bryan Thatcher is the founder of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM), an apostolate of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.