” A humble soul does not trust itself, but places all of its confidence in God” St. Faustina
We have all been told that faith, hope, and charity (love) are the three theological virtues upon which our entire Faith is built and that the greatest of these is love ( 1 Co 13:13). Faith is a belief in the unknown or unseen, hope is a belief in the future, and love is the thread upon which all of this belief is based. Our love of God gives us confidence in what is unknown, unseen, and has not yet occurred because that love inspires trust and knowledge that if we as imperfect creatures of the Creator can love Him even defectively as we do, then how much more perfectly and completely can that very same Creator, who is perfect, love us in return!
Humility: The Silent Partner
I remember a high school chemistry lab experiment where we were asked to combine three chemicals and note their reaction under two distinct conditions. In the first instance, we observed that the three combined chemicals created a very powerful and distinct appearance and odor than any of them had individually. One could say that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. However, when the three chemicals were combined with a particular gas, a much more powerful and explosive reaction occurred leading to a small, controlled fire.
Faith, hope, and charity are like those three chemicals. Their individual power is magnified when the three virtues are combined within the same soul. That reaction, however, pales in comparison to what happens when these virtues are combined within a humble soul, for humility is the unseen environment under which that reaction occurs. In such an instance, the virtue of that soul is greatly magnified. Without humility, true faith and hope are difficult to possess. This is because true faith demands that the soul empty itself to the source of that faith. Likewise, true hope and true charity are all about emptying oneself to God’s Will and the welfare of the other.
True faith, hope, and love do not hold back. They are all about emptying oneself completely, as Christ did on the cross. You cannot sort of believe, love, or serve. Either you fully do, or you fully do not. The rich man dismayed because of the magnitude and breadth of faith, hope, and love demanded by Christ ( Mr 10:22) wanted to hold back for a rainy day. What a fool he was, for the only rainy day is a day without Christ! In fact, to partially borrow from a famous musical, when you are with Christ you are truly singing in the rain!
Faith, hope, and love are treasures, but the chest which protects and manages these treasures is humility. It is truly the gas which turns the previous powerful reaction into a transcendent explosion. Like that gas in the chemical experiment, humility is the game-changing, yet fittingly silent, partner which transcends anything we have on this earth. It stands in the background yet take things to a new level.
Vessels, Tools, and Servants
When I read that the famous Prayer of St. Francis was most likely not written by the great saint, I was disappointed. After all, I thought, does not that beautiful prayer express many things which we associate with Francis? What I find most interesting and ironic about that lovely prayer is that it is both an expression of humility as well as an example of not being humble enough! According to one scholar, Francis would not have used so many self-references ( “I”, “me”) while not referring even once to Christ. At the end of the day, this beautiful prayer reminds us that we are but vessels to be filled with the love exemplified by Our Lord which we should then convey to others as instruments or tools of loving service. In other words, our ultimate, true value and purpose are to bring Christ to others as servants of God.
However, in order to be true vessels of Christ, we must empty ourselves of self. In order to be true instruments of Christ, we must allow ourselves to be used by God in the service of His Will. In order to be servants of God, we must make our personal agendas, opinions, and preferences subservient to God. I submit that one cannot aspire to the Prayer of St. Francis, no matter who really wrote it unless one is truly humble.
We Must Be Stirred
Anything that has to be stirred requires that action to fully mix. As followers of Christ purporting to believe, love, and serve, we also require stirring. In our case, that stirring will be the typical challenges and agitations of this world as they come up against our eternal aspirations. God put us on this earth to make a difference using the particular gifts He has given us. Usually, we cannot make a difference unless we shake things up from the status quo.
In a sense, this world has to push us to act in the name of Christ and in the service of God. We have to be in the world but not really of the world (Joh 15:19, 17:14-16). If we are of the world, we will be stirred by what stirs this world such as petty superficiality, temporary power and wealth, and self-obsession. As it is, we must be of Christ, and so we will only be stirred by what stirred Christ, and what stirs us toward Christ.
It Begins with Humility
Faith, hope, and love are the great virtues we should all aspire to, but these virtues will not take root and hold in our lives unless we provide a fertile soil conducive to their growth and development within our soul. I suggest that said fertile soil is humility which, as we have discussed, allows the transformation sought by the St. Francis Prayer to even begin.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” Amen.
Without humility, we will be too wrapped up in our interests, issues, concerns, and agenda to allow ourselves to become instruments of anything but ourselves. Without humility, we will not believe in the importance of anyone or anything beyond what we can experience with our own senses. Without humility, our greatest love will be ourselves and the concept of self-sacrifice will not even be on our radar. Without humility, we will never get anywhere if the place we want to go is following Christ.