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Grace supposes nature: the exercise of the virtues

Along with the struggle against the most common temptations, we are called to foster the action of the Holy Spirit through the virtues. They will help us in particular, Humility and Meekness, character traits of Jesus, "Learn from me who am meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:25-30)."

As St. Francis de Sales says,

“Bear with gentleness the little injustices, the small inconveniences, the losses of little importance that happen every day. These small occasions lived with love will earn you God’s heart and make it all your own.”

We will better understand how the development of virtues can help us grow in peace and love: patience, meekness, humility, poverty of spirit (even in the midst of riches), avoiding backbiting and judgments. We will seek not only to love others but to make others feel loved, drawing on the great wealth of Salesian spirituality and Don Bosco: loving-kindness, tireless work and Salesian temperance and optimism. Let us remember Pope Francis’ three words: please, sorry and thank you.

1. What is humility?

The Greek term for humility used in the Magnificat (he looked upon the humility of his servant, Luke 1:48) and in St. Paul’s Christological hymn to the Philippians (he humbled himself by becoming obedient unto death, Phil 2:8) is the noun tapeinòs and the verb tapeinòo. When reading Mickey Mouse as a child, there were episodes in the stories of Uncle Scrooge concerning the loss of his vast fortune; whenever such situations occurred, Uncle Scrooge’s comment was, ‘me tapino’(me poor man!!). Where does it come from and what is the meaning of the expression? In the study of the Greek language, the term tapeinòs has five meanings depending on the context:

1. of places, low, depressed; of stature, short;

2. of lowly person, humbled, submissive and still lowly, humble, mean, small, poor, weak;

3. spiritually depressed, dejected;

4. morally mean, vile, modest, humble;

5. of things, modest, resigned, poor.

The semantic reference for both contexts of the Magnificat and the hymn to the Philippians is that of the person. In the case of Mary, humble, lowly handmaid, poor and weak; in the case of Jesus, humble and submissive. The two contexts both help us to understand in depth the meaning of being humble; one is helpful in explaining the other. To be humble like Mary and thus find God’s complacency, there is a need to be humble and submissive, as Jesus was at the moment of His death on the cross, His most extreme lowering. In short, there can be no humility without humiliation. These two realities seem directly proportional. If one is weak and poor in reality or feels so, it is really the moment when one can be lifted up: “He who is lifted up will be humbled (tapeinòo) and he who humbles himself (tapeinòo) will be lifted up” (Lk 14:11). It is really the praise of frailty, a situation in which God can enter, pitch his tent, build his dwelling place and inhabit it.

2. What is the significance of the passage of “learn from me that I am meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:25-30)”?

The passage is placed at the end of chapter 11 and is preceded by John the Baptist sending two disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He was indeed the Messiah. John, who was Jesus’ cousin, chosen to be His messenger, had recognized Him since He was in the womb of His mother Elizabeth exulting with joy at Jesus’ visitation in Mary’s womb, now wonders if He is “the One who is to come, or must we wait for another?”

Jesus answers with the characteristics of the Messiah mentioned by the prophet Isaiah: “the blind recover their sight, the crippled walk, the poor are told the good news”... To this question Jesus adds praise toward His cousin and a confirmation of his mission as a forerunner. The contrast is really sharp between the Baptist’s demanding proclamation to conversion and the lack of reception of his message and what Jesus himself is proclaiming. Truly the cities by the Lake of Galilee in which many miracles took place did not believe in the power of Christ.

Immediately the passage is followed by the dispute with the Pharisees about the Sabbath and the temple. Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath, reiterates, “Mercy I want and not sacrifice.”

Between these two passages lies the present text. Recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, accessing His filial relationship with the Father, knowing Him in depth to the point of experiencing Him: it is not the result of human effort; it is not tied to knowledge and observance of the law; it is not achieved through demanding asceticism; it goes beyond the hardness of heart of not accepting His miracles. It is a free gift from the Father (it pleased Him). So much so that Jesus thanks Him with a public confession in the form of a prayer for all to hear: “Bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and revealed them to the little ones.” Only the little ones, the poor, the humble can access the knowledge of God.

Those who are big, rich and proud, full of themselves, relying only on their own strength, self-sufficient, can never know the breadth, width and depth of God’s love. And here is Jesus’ punch line, “Everything has been given to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and the one to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” The Father-Son relationship is one and it is totalizing: everything is given by the Father and the Son. And Jesus’ knowledge of the Father is unique: He, the only begotten of the Father, begotten not created, of the same substance, in the bosom of the Father from eternity and forever is the One who becomes incarnate, becomes man, lowers Himself to death on a cross, reveals the face of the Father because He is one with Him. One cannot access the Father except by passing through the divine person of the incarnate Word.

And here is the invitation to everyone in their existential frailty: “Come to me all you who are weary and tired and I will give you rest.” Fatigue and weariness are two life situations often present in human beings; they affect not only the physical dimension, but much more the moral, existential and spiritual dimension. 1.

We cannot but think of the anguish of pandemic times, the absurdity of wars, the economic uncertainty, the difficulty of growing up, of taking on new responsibilities, of illness and old age. In these two fatigued and weary terms are the men and women of all categories and at all times. In the face of harsh reality, of adverse history, there is the bursting proclamation of relief from Jesus. We ask ourselves: Who will come to our rescue? Who will deliver us? Jesus answers tenderly: “I will give you freshness. I will quench your thirst. I will give you that living water that quenches your thirst for eternal life. I will wash your feet and serve you. Do you not notice? Right now a new thing is budding. Take my yoke upon you.”

Jesus gives us a burden. It is His burden. He becomes a burden for us. The yoke is a wooden plank for leading animals in pair and aiding the driving of the chariot. The yoke is always for two: one is Jesus and the other is us. You are never alone. It’s awesome, the image of being in pair with Jesus -- where the burdens are shared. That’s why it says at the end that His yoke is gentle (becasue He paired with me) and His burden light (because He bears the heaviest part. He is the one who carries the cross for me). We are called to be Cyrenees with Him, Cyrenees of His cross but also of His joy.

Verse 29 highlights a teaching statement, “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble (tapeinòs) in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” We recognize the master and Lord if we put ourselves in his school of meekness and humility, if we are meek and meek like the Immolated Lamb, condemned, humiliated, abused, vilified like the Crucified One. The price of humility is humiliation, and the fruit, salvation and joy.

3. What does St. Francis de Sales say about humility and meekness?

True humility is generous. For, the more the humility brings us down to the knowledge of the nothingness that we are to ourselves, the more it makes us esteem the virtues that God has showered on us, especially faith, hope, love and that certain capacity that He has given us to unite ourselves with Him through grace. This appreciation that humility makes of God’s gifts is the foundation of generosity of spirit. Humility convinces us that we can do nothing by ourselves since it makes us recognize our wretchedness and limitation. Generosity, in turn, makes us say with St. Paul, “All things I can do in Him who gives me strength.” Humility makes us mistrust ourselves; generosity makes us trust in God. These two virtues are so united to each other that there cannot be one without the other nor can they ever be separated. Humility is grateful; That humility prevents us from seeing the good that God has put in us, is not true. In fact, God’s gifts must be recognized and esteemed.

To know oneself means to recognize not only one’s own nothingness but also the great dignity that God has placed in us by creating us in His image and likeness, capable of uniting us with Him and endowed with a certain instinct that makes us strive and aspire for this union. True humility is full of love and in the service of love, so much so that it can be said that charity is a rising humility and humility is a descending charity. Humility hides and covers virtues in order to preserve them; it lets them be seen when love demands it. Thus, it does not parade its gifts, but when charity demands, it knows how to give its neighbor with frankness and gentleness not only what is useful to the person but also what pleases him. So, all forms of humility that bring prejudice to charity are certainly false. Again, true humility is gentle, strong, serene and gracious. By walking with simplicity on this path, we will make ourselves pleasing to God because He is pleased with humble hearts.

Therefore, I urge you to be joyfully humble before God as well as before the world. Do not seek visible humility. Without avoiding it when the opportunity arises, embrace it joyfully. Take care, however, that your outward humility is always a true expression of your heart.

Guard your littleness with love because God looks upon it with complacency and fills it with grace. Love your poverty, rejoice in being empty that the Lord may fill you with His Kingdom. So, nourish your soul with a spirit of humble and hearty confidence in God. As you find yourself frail and miserable, learn to hope more boldly in Him. You will thus practice great humility, generous and quiet. In the service of God, it will preserve you in a filial and loving freedom without embittering your heart and will keep in you a spirit of holy joy. (Cf. Spiritual Retreats, V, 2-4; VIII, 14; III, 20. Introduction to the Devout Life (Philothea) III, 5. Letters of 1-11-1604; 1607; 8-1608).

4. What can a poor little Salesian Cooperator (Vera of Jesus) teach us?

Vera: O my Jesus, I have nothing to give You. I find nothing but your own gifts and I offer them to You. I intend to offer them through the Heart of your and my sweet Mother together with my poor will. O Jesus, do Thou, destroy me but may I not resist Thee, make me humble, take my whole heart: may it beat only for Thee and may I tell Thee in every beat that I love Thee, that I detest sin. My Life, let me have no other Life but Thine, no other sigh but Thine, no other breath but Thine.

Jesus: “In the holy name of obedience, listen to my Voice: it is Cross, it is Love. My Love and My Cross will never leave you, so will be MY VOICE. Accept it out of obedience, out of love and in a spirit of humility and penance. Behold, I AM in you in love and sorrow. This Voice, my voice, will be the fire that will purify you. I want MY TEMPLE to burn, to be consumed for me. Thank me, my child, that My Father’s love is great for you. Tomorrow, at Holy Mass, you will bring my gifts, the gifts of my mother’s heart, and you will unite them with your miseries, your nothingness, your very small heart. I will take everything. Remember: the wine and the water. In this mystery is the union, the giving. Only with me does the offering rise to God the Father. O my child, immerse yourself in my love. Only my grace will sustain you. Look at me in the Cross, love me in the Cross, fasten in the Cross: I draw you to me, Jesus. Do everything in my name and for my love. When weariness crushes you, invoke me: I will help you!” (Take me with you, 117).

Jesus: “Gift of God, Gift of Love. My Love has no boundaries, no barriers. It is not your miseries that prevent my Grace in you because my Grace is LOVE. It is your doubts, your uncertainties, the limits you place on abandonment in me: Jesus! How fragile you are, My child! Come to Me: I am the STRENGTH, your strength. Think of the Tabernacle. You believe in MY PRESENCE in the Tabernacle. Believe in ME, your Jesus does not deceive you. It is I, Jesus! I would speak to any sinner if he had faith in Me, if he believed in Me, in My Love. I would show Myself to him as I once did, even in My Holy Humanity, but he still would not believe because he has no Faith. If Faith has grown in you, know that it is My Gift! Believe Me speaking to you and ask no more, do not explain why: so, it pleased MY FATHER, so it pleases Me. You receive in humility and gratitude My Voice. Return to Me, surrender yourself to My Love. Feel My Cross, feel My Yoke! Let Me penetrate you.” (Take Me with you, 120).

Vera: O Jesus, give me the pain of sins, a pure and holy LOVE, give me the gift of humility and obedience. O Jesus give me ‘everything’ because I have nothing. Thank you. (Take me with you, 122).

Jesus: “Now, My child, listen to Me: it is My Father’s will that you be recollected, humble, waiting for Me. I call you to fulfill a mission. Fear not, you have the Love Force. I will lead you through rough and winding paths, but in the end, you will recognize Me because I will be there waiting for you. Yes, it is Jesus of the Tabernacle who speaks, who calls, “I am.” You have to do nothing, for now, but wait for Me. I prepare ‘My ways’ by which you and many other souls will set out.

I want you for ME ALONE, I remove you from the worldly affections. I put ‘everything and everyone’ in the Hands of my Father, your family members and I will think of them, but you think only and always of Me. You will have to ‘depart’ from this world, leave it for Me, detach yourself for Me. A Bride is not of the bridegroom if she is not crucified with the relationship. I draw you to the madness of the Cross.

See, I make you a ‘gift’ of My riches, of My passions: passion of Love, of Sorrow; sacrifice, offering, immolation of My Blood.

My poor daughter, you see nothing of all this yet! I, Jesus, Way, Truth, Life will announce many things to you in due time. Remain in humility, in my Love, in my Grace. With the forgiveness of your sins, I redeemed you, in the washing of My Blood, I purified you yesterday, today and will purify always.

You need every day this baptism of Blood and only in My Blood does this happen. Prepare yourself, My daughter, soon I will come to you. It pleased My Father. So, it still pleases Him to make use of the poorest and most unpleasant creatures, but redeemed by My Blood, for His will. You are ‘nothing’ and for this you fear. I have told you that I speak to you in the Heart of my Mother, and through that sword that pierces your Mother’s Heart, my Voice comes to You. From ‘Her’ hear me. Now pray, pray to My Father that He may be pleased to answer your prayers.

When they arrive at My Father’s Throne, they must have the fragrance of incense. Ask Me for incense in your prayers and then unite them with those of the Church, of the Pope; bring them to Father Gabriel so that he may offer them to Me. Ask for My Kingdom, My Will, My Love, My Grace, My Blessing on all humankind. Toward evening, I descend into the world, among souls and I look at them, I search them... Yes, I descend with My Grace into the souls who have served Me. I infuse peace and serenity into their hearts: They are ‘My treasure’ on earth. Fr. Gabriel will speak to souls by My mouth, and My Voice will pass into hearts. For this, your heart must suffer. It must bleed. Send it to Father Gabriel that he may offer it to Me in the Heart of My Mother of Sorrows. Write this so that he may know My Desires. To other souls, I will tell My Love; I will use them to embrace all.

Conclude with this particular Blessing of Mine: I want you all; I want you safe; I want you in My Kingdom. Yes, My child, I am your beloved Jesus yes, yes, yes, it is I, Jesus." (Take Me with You, 128)

For personal prayer and meditation:

Can I endure small injustices or daily setbacks with patience and gentleness?

In difficulties, do I break down and get angry with myself, letting pride overcome me, or do I surrender myself to God and tell myself, “All things I can do in him who gives me strength?”

When I am fatigued and tired, do I ask Jesus for help in prayer, certain that I can partner with Him and that He will bear my burdens?

Monthly commitment

I commit myself not to complain in the face of difficulties and setbacks and say “Jesus, I trust in you” and “I can do all things in Him who gives me strength.”

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