Friday, July 21, 2017

the greatest virtue


St Leo the Great talks to us about several things today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He is talking mostly about the authority of Peter, and how that authority carries down to him as pope in his time.

But one thing he says right at the end jumped out at me. He is humbly stating that anything he does right, in his work or in his prayer, can be attributed to St Peter. And the humility of that statement caused me to ponder the nature of humility.

When you learn the seven deadly sins, especially as pictured in Dante's Inferno, you find out that Pride is sin number one. It is the deadliest of the deadly sins. And Dante, along with many other great Christian thinkers throughout history, tells us that just as pride is the greatest vice, its opposite is the greatest virtue.

And of course we know that humility is the opposite of pride. What is humility? Well, we're told by the saints that humility is reality. Humility is what truly is. C.S. Lewis said that humility isn't thinking less of yourself... it's thinking of yourself less. It's focusing on others. On things outside of ourselves. Have you ever met someone who takes everything personally? If there's a traffic backup, "Why is this happening to ME?" If you don't call them one day, "Why are you mad at me??" In their world, everything is about them... because they haven't yet learned humility. They haven't learned that with a very, very small exception, nothing that happens in the world is actually about them. The exception is so small that you can really say that nothing is about them. Of the 7.4 billion people on the planet, all but a very small handful of them don't even know I exist. Of all the decisions that are made, all of the actions that take place, the percentage of them that have to do with me is so small as to be practically non existent.

When we realize this, it can be very liberating. It's not all about me! I can be free just to be a little human being. I can make mistakes, I can practice by trial and error, I can sin and be forgiven. Because I'm just a tiny little person in a great big world. That's humility.

God, thanks for teaching us humility. Please help us to walk in that freedom.