At the beginning of the Advent journey, during the Mass celebrated at Saint Martha’s on Tuesday morning, December 5, Pope Francis pointed out two fundamental aspects for every Christian: the task to pursue and the style to maintain. He did so focusing his reflection on the passage of the prophet Isaiah (11:1-10), proposed by the Liturgy of the day.
It’s a passage, he said, that “speaks of the Lord’s coming, of the liberation God will bring to His people, of the fulfillment of the promise.” It’s the passage in which the prophet proclaims: “there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse.” And the Pontiff paused immediately on this first expression, stressing how there is talk of a “shoot” that is “little as a seed,” on which, however, the Spirit of the Lord will rest, spirit of wisdom and intelligence, spirit of counsel and fortitude, spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord,” namely, “the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Behold, then, the first fundamental aspect: “from the littleness of the seed to the fullness of the Spirit. This is the promise, this is the Kingdom of God that “begins in the little, from a root there comes forth a seed; it grows, goes forward, because the Spirit is there, and it reaches its fullness,” added Francis.
It’s a dynamic, the Pope noted, that is found in Jesus Himself, who “presents Himself to His people in the Synagogue” in the same way. He doesn’t say” I am the seed,” but proposes Himself in humility and affirms: “The Spirit is upon Me,” aware of having been sent “to give the happy proclamation, that is, to the poor.”
The Pontiff said that the same dynamic applies to the “life of a Christian.” In fact, we must be conscious “that every one of us is a seed of that root, which must grow, grow with the strength of the Holy Spirit, to the fullness of the Holy Spirit in us.” And then he asked: “What is a Christian’s task?” The answer is simple: “To protect the seed that grows in us, to protect its growth, to protect the Spirit. ‘Do not sadden the Spirit,’ says Paul.”
Therefore, to live as a Christian “is to protect this seed, to protect its growth, to protect the Spirit and not forget the root. “Don’t forget the root from which you came. Remember where you come from, this is Christian wisdom,” specified the Pontiff.
If this is the task, “what is the style?” “It’s clearly seen: a style like that of Jesus, of humility.” In fact, one “needs faith and humility to believe that this seed, this very small seed will reach the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. One needs humility to believe that the Father, Lord of heaven and earth, as today’s Gospel says, has hidden these things from the wise, from the learned and has revealed it to the little ones,” explained the Holy Father. In daily life, humility means “to be little, as a seed, little that grows every day, little that needs the Holy Spirit to be able to go forward, towards the fullness of one’s life.”
After all, explained the Pope, “Jesus was humble, God was also humble. God is humble because God had and has so much patience with us. And God’s humility is manifested in Jesus’ humility.” However, he added, the ideas must be clarified on the meaning of the word humility: “Some think that to be humble is to be educated, courteous, to close one’s eyes during prayer . . .” to have a sort of face of a holy card.” Instead, “no, that’s not to be humble.”
Francis himself provided the interpretative key: “There is a sign, a signal, the only one: to accept humiliations. Humility without humiliations isn’t humility. That man, that woman is humble who is able to endure humiliations as Jesus endured them, humiliated, the Great Humiliated One.”
Behold what tests a Christian. “Often, when we are humiliated, when we feel humiliated by someone, we want to answer immediately and defend ourselves.” And instead? Instead, we must look at Jesus: “Jesus was silent in the moment of His greatest humiliation.” And, in fact, said the Pope, “there isn’t humility with the acceptance of humiliations.” Therefore, “humility isn’t only to be quiet, tranquil. No, no. Humility is to accept humiliations when they come, as Jesus did.” A Christian is called to accept “the humiliation of the cross,” like Jesus who “was able to protect the seed, protect its growth, protect the Spirit.”
It’s not something simple and immediate. In this connection, the Pope recalled his having heard once a person who was joking: “Yes, yes, humble, but never humiliated!” A joke but, commented the Pontiff, a joke that “touched a true point.” In fact, there are many who say: “Yes, I am able to accept humility, to be humble, but without humiliations, without the cross.”
Ending his meditation, Francis summarized his thought of the day thus: We must “protect the seed in each one of us. Protect its growth, protect the Spirit, who will lead us to fullness.” And “don’t forget the root. And the style? Humility.” Then he added: “How do I know if I’m humble? If, with the Lord’s grace, I am able to accept humiliations.” And he invited to recall the example of “many Saints who not only accepted humiliations but asked for them: “’Lord, send me humiliations to be like to you, to be more like you.’”
“May the Lord give us this grace to protect the little to the fullness of the Spirit, not to forget the root and to accept humiliations,” he concluded.
Copyright: Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester