Humility was a consistent theme of Our Lord’s life and mission. It is expressed well in the words of St. Paul, “Christ Jesus… emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… (Phil 2:7)” Why did Jesus love humility? St. Teresa of Avila once pondered this question and realized, “It is because God is Sovereign Truth and to be humble is to walk in truth.”
The humility of Jesus was evident from his birth. The Lord of Lords being born into a poor family staying in a poor shelter in the tiny village of Bethlehem. Thirty-three years later, at the conclusion of his life, he emptied himself even more. Riding in triumphantly with cheering crowds gathered round about into the city that would soon ask for his death. At the first part of the week, they cried “Hosanna to the Son of David” later they would yell “Let him be crucified!” The people offered palm branches and flowers then later, a cross and a crown woven with thorns. They laid their cloaks before Our Lord on Sunday and stripped him of his on Friday. This was the hour of his great self emptying.
On Holy Thursday Jesus instituted the Most Holy Eucharist – the greatest of all gifts – and in his humility he allowed Judas Iscariot to commit sacrilege and partake of this sacrament. Later that night he accepted the abuse of being betrayed by two of his closest friends, each in their own way.
The King of Kings submitted to the trial before the high priest Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin at night then Pontius Pilate the next day. The strength of Pilate, that grubby Roman Procurator, vacillated on that Friday we strangely call good. He was not convinced of Jesus’ guilt, yet he consented to his capital punishment even though he symbolically washed his hands of guilt.
Jesus freely accepted all of this. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting (Isa 50:6).” He also accepted the wood of the cross, the terrible march, the falls, the mockery of the crowd, and ultimately crucifixion between two criminals. And this happened, not in some backwater town, but in the Holy City Jerusalem, which was overcrowded with people visiting for the Passover feast. He allowed his humiliation to be seen by many. Even his burial expressed the humility of Our Lord. Early in his ministry, when a would be disciple came up to him, Jesus announced, “Foxes have dens, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (Mt 8:20).” How true this was even to the end of his life! After he was taken down from the cross, Our Lord had to be laid in a borrowed tomb.
Such was the humility of Jesus. And this humility was motivated solely by his immense love.
May I suggest that we all consider the humility and love of Jesus this week? Perhaps it will help us leave the lonely tower of our self-centeredness and pride to join Our Lord on the path of self-emptying and love which leads to victory. And let us stay close to Mary as we contemplate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of her Son. We will not find a more privileged place.