Presence of God – O Jesus, humbled to abjection for me, teach me to humble myself for love of You.
Many souls would like to be humble, but few desire humiliation; many ask God to make them humble and fervently pray for this, but very few want to be humiliated. Yet it is impossible to gain humility without humiliations; for just as studying is the way to acquire knowledge, so it is by the way of humiliation that we attain to humility.
As long as we only desire this virtue of humility, but are not willing to accept the means thereto, not even are we on the true road to acquiring it. Even if in certain situations we succeed in acting humbly, this may well be the result of a superficial and apparent humility rather than of a humility that is real and profound. Humility is truth; therefore, let us tell ourselves that since we possess nothing of ourselves but sin, it is but just that we receive only humiliation and scorn. If we were really convinced of this truth, we would find it very just that all should humiliate us, treat us without consideration, and despise us. In fact, what honor and consideration does one deserve who has offended his Creator, when a single sin–even a venial one–is more deplorable and worthy of more contempt than the most miserable earthly condition, the poorest and lowest estate? The saints were so firmly convinced of this truth that they never found the humiliations which came to them too painful; they considered them, on the contrary, always less than they deserved. “I never heard anything bad said of me,” said St. Teresa of Jesus, “which I did not clearly realize fell short of the truth. If I had not sometimes–often, indeed–offended God in the ways they referred to, I had done so in many others, and I felt they had treated me far too indulgently in saying nothing about these” (Way of Perfection, 15).
Bear your humiliations patiently, for man is tried in this crucible as gold in the fire (cf. Sirach 2:4,5). If we feel the weight of our pride and wish to be rid of it, we must accept humiliations calmly–through them the Lord will crush our pride.
“O Lord, how can a person like me, who deserves to be tortured by demons for eternity, be insulted? If I am badly treated in this world, is it not just? Really, Lord, I have nothing to offer You in this regard…. I know that I am so guilty in Your eyes that I feel that those who insult me are treating me too well, although they think they are offending me, not knowing me as well as You do” (Teresa of Jesus, Way of Perfection, 36).
How true it is, O God, that the only thing that I, a sinner, receive by right is humiliation, insults, scorn. And yet, how troubled and excessively sensitive I am when anything hurts my pride; You know, O my God, how much I wish to get rid of this propensity. I can truthfully say that with the help of Your grace I detest it, and that nothing is more hateful to me. Nevertheless, I have not the strength to accept the remedy You offer me. How shall I have the courage, Lord, to ask You for humiliations, when I have rejected them so often, changing them from medicine into occasions for new acts of pride?
Instead of seeing in humiliations the remedy You provide to cure my pride, how many times have I looked only at the creatures You used to humble me, and irritated by them, I have been indignant and rebellious, as if treated unjustly. How blind I am, O Lord, how far have I wandered from Your ways! Come to bring the light again into my soul, come to place me in the truth, come to set my feet anew on the good, safe way of humiliation.
I do not ask You for particular humiliations, but I do ask You to dispose my heart to accept those which, in Your infinite love and mercy, You have prepared for me from all eternity. In them, I see Your remedy, adapted to my pride; if up to the present I have often refused to taste it, help me now not to lose the smallest drop of it. I am ill, O Lord, and like the patient who wants the medicine which will cure him and who swallows it, bitter though it be, I too, with the help of Your grace, wish to accept and to drink to the very dregs every humiliation. But help me, O sweet Jesus, You who willed to know every form of abasement, for without You I shall only fail in my good resolutions.
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Art: Teresa of Avila, Peter Paul Rubens, 1615, own work David Monniaux, CC, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.