Pope Francis said on Tuesday that true Christian humility is the virtue of the childlike and is never a theatrical humility. His words came at his morning Mass celebrated in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence.
Taking his inspiration from the day’s readings the Pope’s homily was a reflection on how God reveals himself to the humble and childlike rather than the wise and learned as recounted in the gospel of Luke. He noted that the day’s first reading from the book of Isaiah is also full of references to little things such as the small shoot that “shall sprout from the stump of Jesse” rather than an army that will bring about liberation. Pope Francis went on to explain how in the Christmas story too the leading figures are the small and the humble.
“Then at Christmas, we see this smallness, this little thing: a baby, a stable, a mother, a father… little ones. (They have) big hearts but the attitude of a child. And the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit comes to rest on this shoot and this small shoot will have the virtue of the childlike and the fear of the Lord. He will walk in the fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord is not terror: no, it is putting into practice God’s commandment that he gave to our father Abram: ‘Live in my presence, be perfect,’ Humble – this is humility, fear of the Lord is humility.”
The Pope stressed that only the childlike are capable of fully understanding the sense of humility and the fear of the Lord because they walk in front of the Lord, watched over and protected, feeling that the Lord gives them the strength to journey forward and this is true humility.
“Living our humility, Christian humility means having this fear of the Lord which, I repeat, is not terror but is:‘You are God, I am a person, I journey forward in this way with the little things of life but walking in Your presence and trying to be perfect.’ Humility is the virtue of the childlike and this is true humility and not a rather theatrical humility: no, not that: the humility of somebody who said: ‘I am humble but proud of being so.’ No, that is not true humility. The humility of the childlike is that of somebody who walks in the presence of the Lord, does not speak badly about others, looks only at serving and feels that he or she is the smallest …. That is where their strength lies.
In the same way, the Pope continued, we see the great humility of that girl to whom God sent His Son and who immediately afterwards hastened to her cousin Elizabeth and who said nothing about what had happened. He said humility is like this, journeying in the presence of the Lord, happy, joyful because they are humble just as we see in today’s gospel reading.
“Looking at Jesus who rejoiced because God reveals his mystery to the humble, we can ask for the grace of humility for all of us, the grace of fear of God, of walking in his presence trying to be perfect. And in this way with this humility, we can be vigilant in prayer, carrying out works of brotherly charity and rejoicing and giving praise.”