Be sincere of heart, be steadfast,
and do not be alarmed when disaster comes.
Cling to him and do not leave him,
so that you may be honoured at the end of your days.
Whatever happens to you, accept it,
and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient,
since gold is tested in the fire,
and chosen men in the furnace of humiliation.
. . .
It was the words ‘humble state’ that caught my attention. Humility is the most highly-praised virtue in the writings of the desert fathers and mothers, and in the theology of St Augustine and many others. But it is a slippery virtue to develop. By what standard might we measure our own humility?
The very idea of a measurement seems somehow incongruous. Humility is more like flying, in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: you’ll never fly by intending to fly. The only way to take off is to aim for the ground and miss. And the only way to stay in the air is not to call attention to yourself. One of my very favorite lines in the flying scene consists of the immortal words (every letter capitalized): do not wave at anybody.
Flying, like humility, is a matter of the right sort of attention. Concentrate on the flying, and you’ll fall; try to become humble, and you’ll never achieve it. How then, do we do it? “Cling to him and do not leave him…Whatever happens to you, accept it.” The attention is all important: attend to Jesus, and not to ourselves; amid the uncertainties and upsets of life, do not wave at anybody. Look to Jesus, and forget about the laws of gravity.
The Mexican priests we remember today did that, and we honor them for their humility, for counting nothing so precious as the body and blood of Christ. For them, and for all those who have walked faithfully the path of discipleship, lighting the way for others to follow, I am grateful.