"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are His judgments and how unsearchable His ways!" (Romans 11:33).
With these few words St. Paul expresses in an admirable way the awesome majesty of our God. Before such a God we can only tremble in our nothingness, and fall on our knees, saying like the angels about the throne of God, "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God almighty, Who was, and Who is, and Who is coming" (Apocalypse 4:8b).
Humility is the appropriate virtue for man. Surrounded by the wonders of God's creation the human family should offer the Creator profound expressions of praise and thanksgiving at each and every moment of the day. And yet we have our "pride days."
Our unsurpassed and unsurpassable example of humility is the Lord Jesus Christ, "Who," says St. Paul, "though He was by nature God, did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to, but emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave and being made like unto men. And appearing in the form of man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross" (Philippians 2:6-8).
We also have the example of the saints, particularly the humble Virgin of Nazareth, Blessed Mary, who proclaimed in her Magnificat: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; Because he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid… (Luke 1:46-48).
St. Peter admonishes us: "Practice humility towards one another, for 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in the time of visitation…" (1 Peter 5: 5b,6).
Humility is the first virtue of the saints. "The whole of the Christian religion is humility," said St. Augustine. Commenting on the virtues most necessary for the Christian life, he said: "Humility, humility, and again, humility." He once received a lesson in humility as he walked along the beach near his church in North Africa, pondering the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. Observing a child carrying buckets of water from the ocean and emptying them into a hole in the sand, he said to the child, "You can never succeed in emptying the ocean into that little hole." Replied the child, "I will empty the ocean into that little hole before you understand the mystery of the Blessed Trinity with your little mind."
In the Rule of St. Augustine we read: "Pride ensnares even good deeds and destroys them." Pride is the very opposite of humility. Pride was the devil's downfall. We have this from the prophet Isaiah: "How art thou fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? How art thou fallen to the earth that didst wound the nations? And thou saidst in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the height of the clouds. I will be like the most High. But yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, into the depth of the pit" (Isaias 14:12-15).
The human race also had its downfall through the pride of Adam and Eve. The devil tempted Eve: "No, you shall not die; for God knows that when you eat of it (the fruit), your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5). They chose to disobey, and lost for themselves and for us the state of Original Grace. Hence the confusion of tongues at Babel, the collapse of human solidarity, and the estrangement of peoples, with ensuing war and strife. The estrangement was overcome for those who believed, however, at Pentecost, as the crowds began to understand the preaching of the Apostles in their own languages.
But incredibly, the new occupant of the papal apartments in the Vatican, Benedict XVI, in his recent message to the Macedonian Ambassador, has renewed the cry of John Paul II for a "dialogue between cultures," based on "the fundamental values common to all cultures" which, he says, "find their source in the very nature of the human person." So it's not sin, after all, but "cultural differences," that cause misunderstandings and wars. We thought that it took the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to create a new humanity to which one could belong only through faith and Baptism. Now it seems we had it in our genes all along. The message to the Ambassador:
"Tragically, cultural differences have often been a source of misunderstanding between peoples and even the cause of senseless conflicts and wars. In fact dialogue between cultures is an indispensable building stone of the universal civilization of love for which every man and woman longs. I encourage you and your citizens therefore to affirm the fundamental values common to all cultures; common because they find their source in the very nature of the human person. In this way the quest for peace is consolidated allowing you to dedicate every human and spiritual resource to the material and moral progress of your people, in a spirit of fruitful cooperation with neighboring countries" (May 19, 2005, Zenit.org).
But the nations, all of them, are in need of the deep healing that comes through faith in Jesus Christ and the presence of Divine Grace. What "spiritual resource" do we have aside from Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost? Peace will not come as a result of dialogue between cultures, and certainly not as a result of American style democracy imposed through force of arms. Judgment Day approaches as the true Church seeks the true spiritual remedy, praying: "Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth."
God speaks these humbling words to a humanity doomed by its pride: "My thoughts are not your thoughts; nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts" (Isaias 55:8,9).
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in the time of visitation…" (1 Peter 5:5b,6).