Humility at its Highest Level by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
The Church wisely chose the famous canticle from the second chapter of the letter to the Philippians to help us navigate through the liturgy on Palm Sunday and the proclamation of the Lord’s Passion.
Two simple lines jump out from the page and give direction to the flood of emotions and ideas that overwhelm us as we ponder the tragic events that mark the end of Jesus’ life on this earth: “he emptied himself” and “he humbled himself.”
First of all, both of these statements obviously make use of action verbs. Jesus was not a passive player in the events that brought Him to the end of His earthly journey. Rather, He was fully aware of what was going on, He was fully in command of His actions in spite of His agony, and He was fully committed to accomplishing the will of His Father. No one took His life from Him. He laid it down for our sake.
St. Paul tells us that Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” It is important to pray with this Passion narrative this week (Mk 14:1-15:47), to pause along the way at key moments in the drama, and to strive to comprehend the magnitude of Jesus’ love and the depths to which He emptied Himself during His Passion.
Some of the moments that we might stop at to ponder include the following scenes: Judas betrays Our Lord with a kiss to the cheek; Jesus’ trouble and distress in the garden reaches a pinnacle (“My soul is sorrowful even to death”); the Twelve Apostles completely abandon Jesus upon the arrival of the chief priests and the scribes at Gethsemane (“And they all left him and fled”); Peter vehemently denies his relationship with Our Lord (“I do not know this man about whom you are talking”); and the religious leaders mock Our Savior as He hangs upon the cross (Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said: ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself.’”) Jesus emptied Himself and allowed others to treat Him like a slave.
St. Paul continues: “He (Jesus) humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death.” Jesus emptied himself during His Passion to a degree that is hard to grasp. Yet, Jesus did not stop there. His commitment to His saving work and His obedience to the will of His Father led Him to the ultimate act of humility, death on the cross.
Our Lord’s death bore witness to the truth that Jesus came to destroy sin. The last and most devastating conseq1unce of sin is death. Jesus had to venture into that realm in order to redeem us. In an effort to fully embrace and redeem humanity, Jesus went down to the very nadir of our human condition. That is, He chose to experience the full effect of sin, which is to be cut off completely from God. So, from the cross flowed the famous cry of Our Lord, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Moments later, He surrendered His life into the hands of His Father. This is humility at its highest level.
Lord Jesus, pour forth your Spirit into our hearts this week that we may gaze with ever growing faith at the height, depth and width of your redeeming love poured out upon us during your Passion. By your grace may our lives be transformed so that we may pour out our lives in loving service of You and neighbor and imitate your humility.
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