“Because everyone that exalted himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted”. (Luke 14:11)
This final line from today’s Gospel serves as the theme for the meditation which we can draw from the text. The line has particular pertinence today due to the relevance, or lack of it, which the virtue of humility has in current society. It is an importance which cannot be missed by Catholics who live in a world in which this virtue is far from common. Indeed, such a virtue is rarely even praised or promoted - certainly the world proclaims on occasion to love a humble man, but yet the world is built and run by those who are far from humble. A humble man is seen as an anomaly, something to be wondered at initially, but soon scorned and forgotten. Pride is of course the root of all sin and the source of original sin, whilst humility, the opposing virtue, is necessary in order to combat pride. It is a virtue which is so clearly needed in order to reverse the state of affairs in this irreligious society.
Why then ought this command of Christ be implemented? In essence, it is the only way by which a society can survive. Humility is not something which should be practiced with great vigour one day and then dropped on the next, but rather a habit which one must work at every day in order to seek mastery of it. As such, the virtue of humility requires a constant act of fortitude. This ability to surrender one’s will or self-love, is directly opposed to the predominant spirit of modern society which proclaims the ideology of self-love and self-will as its chief mantra. Hence the great importance of humility in the current age, since it is the antidote to the crime of self-love which has taken over and destroyed the remnants of Christian civilisation.
Comparing humility to self-love, we see that humility is the only path which leads to salvation. Christ teaches this in saying that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, whilst those who prefer to be humble will attain the exalted prize. It is only possible to prefer to be humbled, if one has Christ in mind. Reminding oneself of the glory of heaven and the sufferings which He endured for us, serves as an easy way to avoid falling into pride. However, this is a concept which modernity cannot fathom. Such is the corrupted nature of man, that he cannot understand how living for another, ultimately God, can be greater than living for oneself.
This phenomena occurs as a result of a long process: over time, the revolutionary forces in the world have pushed the idea that religion and morality is coercive and forceful. These liberals, both in the Church and society, urged that man move away from a sense of duty towards God, which entailed hardships, and instead towards a life which was supposedly more ‘human’ and free. In essence, this more human life is merely a more selfish life, in which one chooses his own desires instead of the moral and divine law. Pride is thus the governing principle in this ideology. If we allow time for this process to take effect, then the current situation of free licentiousness and lack of morality is easily understood, since this is the logical effect of a life lived purely for one’s own desires.
It is a vicious circle of vice which can only be stopped by a sudden and sharp action. The firm practice of the virtue of humility is this sharp action, which can be the only antidote to pride.
But it is important to note that the Gospel only refers to humility in terms of oneself. Crucially it does not mention that one should be humble in defence of the things of God. That is to say, whilst one can sacrifice his own wishes and desires out of humility, the laws of God are never things which can be compromised on. Hence, one ought never to promote some ecumenical worship in which Catholicism and other religions are viewed as equal, out of a perverted form of humility and respect. When it comes to defending the law of God, fortitude, not long-suffering, must be the predominant virtue. In fact, it is due to a misunderstanding of this very fact, that immorality has been allowed such a free spread. Clerics and lay have turned a blind eye to transgressions of the moral and natural law due to some fallacious concept of humility and not wishing to interfere or impose one’s will.
The enemies of Christ, particularly those who have infiltrated the Church, play upon this view of the virtue of humility,. They seek to push humility in all things but especially with regards to doctrine, stating that those who wish to preserve the truth are merely rigid and selfish. ‘Let go of your selfish attachment to those older ideas’ they cry: ‘you should be humble and not be so judgemental. Humility, brethren, humility!’. Then again they might say, ‘humility is acceptance, and you must be accepting of all in the world, else you cannot be like Christ’. Such phrases are not unfamiliar in the modern Church.
But faithful souls must be on guard not to be taken in by these poisonous words and instead fight back with renewed vigour by attachment to and promotion of truth, morality and doctrine. Worship of God and fidelity to truth are the fundamental points which must be the guide for the life of all. These cannot be subject to ‘humble’ acceptance of innovation or compromise. Rather, the truth must be defended zealously and courageously. We must follow the example of the saints who became masters of their own passions and desires through humility, yet did not compromise on one single aspect of the faith. Indeed, their personal selflessness, combined with the unflinching proclamation of the truth, is that which drew many souls around them.
The virtue of humility calls us to sacrifice our wills out of love for Christ. It does not and cannot call us to sacrifice the truth taught by Christ for the sake of fellow man. To do so would be an aberration and corruption. Such would be a false humility, and it is precisely this which is taught by the false shepherds and leaders in the Church and the world. On the contrary, true humility consists in a certain twofold ferociousness: firstly against one’s own selfishness and then in defence of God. The humble saints embody this virtue in such a manner, for they were fully aware of the nature of humility. We so often describe humility as a death to self, but if one is indeed dying to self, then he must be doing so for something greater. This greater being is of course God, and so it goes against all logic as well as against humility itself, to be firm against self will but weak in defence of truth.
Hence, today’s Gospel calls for a renewed practice of humility. It urges that we be filled with a strong spirit when resisting our own desires, as well as when we unflinchingly proclaim the truth of Christ.