We are told in Genesis 2:7 that, "The
LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground". The words, 'human' ,
'humble',and 'homage' all derive from
the same general word root that means, "earth". From a biblical perspective we
human beings come from the earth/the ground. Hence, humility is the posture of
a true, well "grounded" humanity. In the Gospel of St. Luke (Lk. 10:38-42),
there is a story told of Jesus visiting the home of his friends, Martha and Mary.
We are told that Martha "had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at
his feet listening to him speak" (Lk. 10:39). Mary is seated on
the ground (earth) in the posture of a disciple--in the posture of a child--in
the presence of Jesus. She is seated "in truth": "Go and take the lowest
place" (Lk. 14:10); and, "Come down quickly, for today I must stay
at your house" (Lk. 19:5).Those who
seek to be formed as effective intercessors must learn first to take the
"lowest place"--to "humbly regard others as more important than yourselves"
(Ph. 2:3). We must learn to be in touch with the poverty of our humanity--our
neediness and our nothingness in the presence of Jesus.
An intercessor is first of all a contemplative, and humility is an
essential interior disposition of heart for authentic contemplative listening:
"Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only
say the word and my soul shall be healed" (Roman Missal, p. 521); and, "The
lowlywill hear me and be glad"(Ps. 34:3). A humble intercessor
is one who is ready to hear and obey: "Speak, for your servant is listening"
(1 Sam. 3:10). An intercessor must first be formed at this "ground level" in
humility after the likeness of Jesus who, in willfully taking on a human
nature, has taken "the lowest place" as the Son of God: "He emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave…he humbled himself…"(Ph. 2:7, 8). We must learn to
lower ourselves to be in the presence of the One who descended--"came
down"--from Heaven in order to be with us, to offer for us, in a human nature.
Our poverty of spirit participates in the "yes" of Jesus who emptied himself in
the world, for the salvation of the world.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states it this way: "Humility
is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that we do
not know how to pray as we ought, are we ready to receive freely the gift of
prayer. "Man is a beggar before God" (CCC 2559; and St. Augustine sermo
56,6, 9, PL 38, 381). As a human being Jesus begged the Father for everything
in prayer: "Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of
prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and
poverty" (CCC 2713).
"Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart."
God is "the God of the lowly" (Jdth
9:11). Only "at his feet" with a humble heart do we become teachable: "He
guides the humble rightly and teaches the humble the way" (Ps.
25:9). For us, 'the way' is the way of contemplative intercession. We must sit
at the feet of the One who with resolute determination and humble submission
has walked the will of the Father perfectly in the world unto death. So,
"Clothe yourselves in humility: (1 Pet. 5:5); and, "Live in a manner
worthy of the call you have received, with all humility"
1) Where in my life
do I struggle to be humble in my thoughts, words, or actions?
2) Is there someone
in my life whom I treat as less important than myself?
Any scripture from
the teaching; Sir. 3:17-19; Zeph.3:12-13; Mt. 5:3; Luke. 14: 11.