The power of Christian humility was the focus of the third Lenten homily given this year by the preacher of the Pontifical Household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.
“The truly humble person is the one who strives to have the heart of Jesus,” Fr. Cantalamessa said. He went on to provide insights from Paul’s letter to the Romans:
I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment. . . . Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; never be wise in your own sight. (Rom 12:3, 16)
“These are not trivial recommendations to moderation and modesty! In these few words, the apostle’s exhortation opens up for us a vast domain of the virtue of humility,” Father exclaimed. “Next to charity St. Paul identifies humility as the second most fundamental value, the second area to work on to renew one’s life in the Spirit and to build up the community.”
Father went on to explain that Paul introduced a “decisive concept” in his discussion of humility, a concept of humility different from the old testament and the Greek philosophers. The old testament of humility was that it was good to be humble because it gained favor with God – who was high and mighty. To the Greeks, “humble” had the connotation of baseness, even cowardice.
“The decisive concept that Paul introduces in his discourse on humility is the concept of truth,” Fr. Cantalamessa explained. “God loves the humble because the humble person lives in accord with truth: he or she is genuine, authentic. God punishes pride because pride, even more than arrogance, is a lie. In fact, everything that is not humble in a person is a lie.”
Thus, “by humbling himself, a human being comes closer to the truth,” Father continued. And he pointed out someone who demonstrated the “unparalleled value of true humility:” Mary.
“Humility is important not only for personal progress on the path to holiness, it is also essential for the proper functioning of community life and for the building up of the Church,” Father concluded. “I believe that humility is insulation for the life of the Church…humility is the great insulation that allows the divine current of grace to flow through a person without dissipating or, worse, producing the flames of pride and rivalry.”