Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John (the Baptist) and a Jew about ceremonial washings. So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ…The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice…He must increase; I must decrease.”
“He came from such humble beginnings”. I have often heard this said, especially at funerals, but I never really reflected on it much. Now that I have, I have something to say about it.
What we say is not always what we want to say. When we say that someone came from humble beginnings, what we are really saying is that they started off with nothing or that they came from very modest beginnings. That makes a lot more sense to me, especially when someone is talking about a rags-to-riches story. For when it comes to humility, there are no guarantees that a poor man is a humble man or that a rich man is no longer a humble man.
Humility has little to do with our condition in life; it has much to do with our attitude towards life.
People of faith have an easier time at being humble than people of little or no faith. It’s not that the humble are humble because they think they are wrong (you can’t be humble if you are wrong. You can only be honest); rather, the humble are humble because they know they are right. They are right in being grateful. They are right in being generous. They are right in being honest.
Humble people know how grateful they should be to a hidden God. They should be as grateful as the recipient of an unknown organ donor; as grateful as the recipient of an anonymous donor; as grateful as the recipient of an unknown prayer.
Humble people are humble because they are commonsensical. Humility does not come from scraping at the bottom of a barrel; it comes from turning the barrel upside down and opening it.
God is not humble because He is small; God is humble because He makes himself small. He is not humble because He is man’s servant. He is humble because He makes himself man’s servant. John the Baptist was not humble because he was insignificant. He was humble because he made himself insignificant. “He must increase; I must decrease.”
Humility has little to do with our state of life; it has everything to do with the way we posture ourselves in this life.
St. John the Baptist positioned himself perfectly the moment he pointed to the Lord and said that which would be hard for any of us to say: “He must increase; I must decrease.” He is the one. I am not.
To be humble means to submit oneself to reality (“You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ”). To be humble means to know the difference between being the “groom” and the “best man”. To be humble means to posture yourself properly before the great One (“I stand and listen to him”).
To be humble means to adore no one - not myself or others – but the Lord.
“Beloved: We have this confidence in him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1Jn 5:14). When we pray, we often pray for one thing: happiness. And when we pray for happiness, we often attach it to something. But happiness, like holiness, is not attached to something; it is attached to Someone: Jesus Christ. With Jesus we find holiness; with holiness we find our happiness. Happiness and holiness go hand in hand, just like sacrifice and love, just like the Lord and I. In order for us to be holy and happy, we must be humble: So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.