by Boudreaux, Florentin, 1821-1894
And therefore when He enters upon His public career, His first act is one of deep self-abasement ; one by which He takes upon Himself before the world the form of a sinner, in which He presents Himself to His holy Precursor, to be by him cleansed in the baptism of water. Therefore, too, when He forms that company of future Apostles, He chooses poor ignorant fishermen as His most favoured followers. “ He is amongst them, not as one who commands, but as one who serves ; ” claiming no master’s authority, but governing with a father’s mildness and gentleness. The poor are His favourites; the lowly, the outcast, the weak, the little children, the unclean lepers, the despised but humble sinners : such are the objects of His predilection ; for them is His compassion, for them His miraculous power, for them His divine forgiveness. Humility shines forth from every page of the Gospel. The first sweet words He addressed to men as their Teacher, are : “ Blessed are the poor in spirit,” that is, blessed are the humble, “ for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. v. 3.) And as “ out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” we shall not be surprised if we find humility the frequent subject of His instructions, the moral of His parables, the object of His divine commendation. He bids us not seek the esteem of men ; not do our good works so as to be seen by men. He tells us to rejoice when we are reviled and condemned. He warns us that unless we become as little children, we shall not enter into His kingdom. He that is the greatest among His disciples must be as the least. And when He is requested and urged to reserve high places in His kingdom for two whom He appeared to love with special favour, He tells them that they know not what they ask. “ He that humbleth himself, shall be exalted,” is the lesson conveyed by more than one of His recorded parables. And whilst He thus teaches humility by word, He continues to enforce it by example. He seeks not His own glory, but the glory of His Father. He works miracles, but He charges the recipients of His favours to let no man know it. And when His fame goes abroad over all the land, He is not elated ; when His praises are sounded by the multitudes, His heart is not pulled up. When they would make Him king, He hides Himself on the mountain-tops; and when they cry, “ Hosannah to the Son of David,” and spread their garments in the way whilst He rides into Jerusalem, He, still humble, and as it were unconscious of their acclamations, weeps over the unhappy city which will perish in its pride after all the examples of humility His loving Heart has given it. Humility is the magnet which draws forth His miraculous powers. The humble woman who would not venture into His presence, but only touch the hem of His garment, is healed at the touch and receives His praise. The Centurion who declared himself unworthy to receive Him under his roof, brings forth from the Heart of Jesus, not only the desired grace, but an exclamation of wonder at such unwonted humility. The poor publican of the parable, who considers himself too vile to approach the altar, but holds himself at the entrance of the temple, and strikes his breast in humble penitence for his many sins, is declared justified by his humility in the sight of God, whilst the proud virtue of the Pharisee brings upon him a double condemnation. Were we to search the Gospels, we should find many other similar lessons and examples, which together with these we have glanced at, are all resolved into that first of His instructions : “ Blessed are the poor in spirit ; ” “ Learn of me because I am humble of heart.” But let us pass on to the last scene of His mortal life, and study the humility of the love of Jesus during the dark days of His passion. Here especially we need all the support of our faith, that we may not turn away from Him, as all others did, save His own most lowly Mother and a few faithful and humble women. He is still our God, still the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the well-beloved Son of God, the crowning glory of the universe ; and it is this supreme excellence that makes His humiliation so deep, so mysterious, so overwhelmingly awful to our contemplation. Who can tell how deadly our wound must have been that required such a sacrifice for its cure! But what words will suffice to express the humiliation of Jesus in His passion ? Millions of grateful souls have pondered on it during all the years of their lives ; millions of eloquent lips have spoken of it; millions of mighty pens have written it : and yet the mystery is as unfathomable as ever. The Prophet, who foresaw this ignominy, cried out to God that no man would believe it when it was told. ( Isaias liii.) And yet, dreadful as it was, incredible as it appeared, it was all verified to the letter in Jesus, the meek and humble Saviour of men. The buffets, the spittle, the false testimony, the shameful scourging, the ignominious crown and mantle and sceptre, the unjust condemnation, the cross; all, until the final consummation — a pitiless storm of insult and opprobrium, an immeasurable ocean of bitterness and shame — all was endured without a murmur by Him whose love for us made Him humble of heart, to teach us humility even by such an example. Can anything be conceived that could render His abjection more profound, His ignominy more degrading, His shame more overwhelming? Has not Divine Wisdom itself done all it could do to satisfy, in the humiliations of this Victim, for the pride of those whose sins He has taken upon Himself? But why attempt to explain what goes far beyond all human intelligence? Jesus is humble to the last. Humility has been the companion of His life ; it remains with Him in death. The humble shepherds were the first to welcome Him into life; two pilloried thieves are His companions in death, whilst He Himself has been rejected in favour of a convicted assassin. May we now add, that humility has triumphed with Him on the cross ? If we had been present at that scene of supreme annihilation, with the faith that we now have in the Divinity of His Person, and if we had been asked whether it were possible that, after all this, after such a life and such a death, pride should still exist in the heart of man? we should, no doubt, without hesitation, have pronounced it impossible. “ No ! # pride is forever killed. It has died, a loathsome monster, at the foot of that cross. So long as men are gifted with reason, they must recognise their God and Saviour in Him who has thus died for them; and so long as they acknowledge Him as their God, their Model and their Master, they must make it their chief study to resemble Him, their only glory to be despised with Him. Seeing Him upon His cross, they will hasten with their own crosses to the mountain of His shame, that they may be crucified with Him and share in His glorious humiliations.” And how sadly we should have erred in this judgement of the future. Look at the world of today ; look at what we call, by courtesy, the Christian world ; look at those even who are considered sincere and practical Christians. Is pride dead in the world ? Is the Christian world animated by the spirit of Christ, ruled by the maxims of the humble Jesus? freed from the pride of life? Are even practical Christians indifferent to honours, insensible to derision, unmoved by the loss of reputation ? No ! pride is not dead ; it lives and reigns today as it has always lived since Lucifer gave it birth. It carries its havoc sometimes even into the house of God. But what shall we say when we shall be brought with our pride before the judgement-seat of God ? What excuse will save us before Him who has given us such lessons of humility as we have heard, such examples of humility as we have witnessed ? It is for us that His Heart was humble, for us that He made humility the inseparable companion of His life. To teach us this most necessary virtue, He has opened to us the Paradise of His Sacred Heart, so that we may be won by His love to the virtue of His Divine predilection.