Humility of Heart
Presence of God – O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.
Jesus expressed Himself only once in these words: “Learn of Me,” and this was when He was speaking of humility. “Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29). Knowing how much the practice of real humility would cost our proud nature, He seemed to want to give us special encouragement. The example He gave in the extraordinary humiliations which made Him “the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people” (Psalm 22:7), those humiliations by which, out of love for men, He was “made sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21) and the bearer of all our iniquities, even to being “reputed with the wicked” (Mark 15:28), is certainly the strongest stimulus and the most urgent invitation to the practice of humility.
Jesus speaks directly to us about humility of heart, because every virtue, every reform of life, if it is to be sincere, must come from the heart, whence come our thoughts and our actions. The exterior attitude and the humility of our words are useless unless accompanied by lowliness of heart; many times they are but the mask of a refined—and therefore all the more dangerous—pride. “First make clean the inside,” said Jesus when He was branding the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, “that the outside may become clean” (Matthew 23:26). St. Thomas teaches that “an interior disposition to humility puts its seal upon the words, gestures, and acts, by means of which that which is hidden within is manifested on the outside” (Summa Theologica IIa IIae, q.161, a.6).
Therefore, to be truly humble, we must apply ourselves first of all to humility of heart and continue to deepen the sincere recognition of our nothingness, of our weakness. Let us acknowledge our faults and failings without trying to assign any other case for them than our misery; let us recognize the good that is in us as a pure gift of God and never claim it for our own.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, cure me of my pride, make my heart humble, infuse a little of Your profound humility into my soul. Since You know me better than I know myself, how could I, with my proud will, make my heart humble? A poor man cannot give wealth to himself, nor can a proud man give humility to his heart. Only Your infinite goodness can heal pride.
“This is the remedy to fix my gaze on You, Incarnate Word, hanging on the Cross. As soon as You see a humble soul looking at You in this way, You are quickly moved to look at it, and the effect of Your divine glance is like that of a ray of sunshine on the earth: it warms it and prepares it to bring forth fruit. This is the way You act, O divine Word, who by the light of Your glance, drain my soul of all its pride, and consume it in Your fire. No one can acquire humility if he does not fix his gaze on You, O Word, on the Cross” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).
“O divine Word, You humbled Yourself even unto death and willed to be treated as the least of men by sinners, by demons, and even by the Holy Spirit and by Your eternal Father. You did all this to glorify Your Father, to make reparation for the offenses committed against Him by our pride, to confound and destroy our arrogance and to teach us to detest vanity and to love humility. Oh! how truly can we see that pride dishonors God and is very displeasing to Him, since it was necessary for You, the Son of God, to be so humiliated in order to atone for such dishonor! We can truly say also that vanity is a monstrous thing, since in order to destroy it, You were willing to be reduced to such humiliation! Oh! how firmly must we believe that in the eyes of God humility is an infinitely precious treasure and a jewel most pleasing to Him, since You, His divine Son, willed to be so humiliated to make us love this virtue, and to urge us to imitate You in the practice of it, and thus merit the grace to perform its works!” (St. John Eudes).
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Art for this post on humility of heart: Sacred Heart of Jesus, José María Ibarrarán y Ponce, 1896, Restored Traditions, used with permission. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.