(From the Gospel for St. Matthias'-day, 24th February)
Of the proper marks of true humility.
Matt. xi. 29.-"Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart."
CHRIST, our blessed Lord, the true master and teacher of all art and virtue, and a pattern of all perfection, when He came down from Heaven to instruct us poor ignorant men, did not see fit to make use of great subtleties, or mysterious and ingenious statements of truth; but in short, plain, simple words He delivered to us a maxim, and gave us a very short, easy lesson, which we were well able to learn. Now this stood written in the book of His holy humanity, in large, distinct letters, easy to be read, and runs thus: "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart."
What shorter, easier, more intelligible lesson could be set us? but we must give our minds with willing industry to read it over and over again attentively, and practise it in our life, ever looking to the admirable model of the divine humanity of Christ, whose whole life was not only meek and humble, but whose words, ways, walk, and all that ever He did, are simply the illustration of this doctrine. Hence He chose at the beginning such scholars and disciples as were specially fitted to learn this doctrine, and these were the holy apostles, and His blessed mother, who said when she had conceived Him: "He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden." Thus He says, in the Gospel for this day, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent" (that is from the proud), "and hath revealed them unto babes" (that is to the humble). From this we gather that none but the humble are able to receive the hidden things of God. Therefore, dear children, that we may obtain this grace, and the better learn this lesson, we shall now consider some tokens of true lowliness which is never without meekness, and these are the following:
He who sincerely desires to become lowly of heart, must not be ashamed of performing any outward office such as the worldly heart thinks mean and humiliating; for as it is a sure token of conversion from sin that it becomes hateful to the man, so it is a sign of true repentance, when he is ready in all things to take the meanest place, if that he may attain to that true lowliness of heart which is seated inwardly in the soul. And he who will go forward in this blessed path must faithfully examine himself, and to this end God also will bestow on him such great grace as he has never had before.
He must always be ready to acknowledge himself in fault towards whomsoever it may be, and esteem others better than himself; for by so doing the loving heart can best soften the dispositions of men and touch their hearts, and win them over to meekness. And although he be sometimes not justly to be reckoned as in fault at all, yet knowing that he might have done the wrong, he shall always behave himself humbly, for the sake of love, to the glory of God, seeing that God has forgiven him sins ere he committed them; for it is equally an act of mercy to forgive sins, or to preserve us from sinning.
In the third place, it belongs to a lowly heart to be kindly affected towards all, not with a partial love; that is, not to show more kindness to one than another, to friends more than strangers, but to do good to all for God's sake, as our neighbours, not from mere natural affection, but to bestow on all a free, generous love (like our Father in Heaven, "who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust"), and also to love each according to his worthiness.
In the fourth place, it is necessary to lowliness of heart that we divest and disencumber ourselves of all things, that we may cleave only to our merciful God, and become one with Him; for God will not and cannot unite Himself or dwell with a worldly heart. Therefore let a man bow himself to the earth beneath God and his creatures, in self-annihilation inward and outward; and this is what is meant by forsaking all things, and putting away the creature. The fifth token of true lowliness of heart is to know how to suffer to the glory of God, for sincere love of God, simply hoping, believing, and trusting in Him.
Thus a lowly walk consists in three things; in patient endurance, in giving up out of love and faith, and in hope towards God. And from these flows the sense of our own wretchedness, the knowledge of our Creator, and a will wholly resigned to God, not for our own sake, but for the glory of God. May God help us to learn thus to be meek and lowly of heart. Amen!