Faith & Life

Out of the depths of humility to the heights of the glory of God

May 19, 2022

Divo Barsotti

Why did the Lord not want to proclaim his divinity? Because men were not prepared to recognize God in the humility of the Incarnate Word. In other words, God’s true revelation is his humility. It is not greatness, it is not power, it is not splendor, it is not glory; but it is supreme humiliation, it is death on the cross. Why this? Because, as Saint John says in his First Letter, “God is love.” The supreme revelation of God is this self-denial in order to love: he gives himself totally. God, the more he reveals himself the more he moves toward death, the more he reveals his humility. The devil instead, when he tempts Jesus in the desert, wants Jesus to make his power felt, he wants his power to be manifested, he wants him to perform miracles and thus show himself to be the Son of God.

Jesus’ deep humility is what St. John teaches us about in the fourth Gospel. God’s revelation in Christ is found in his death on the cross: “Videbunt in quem transfixerunt” – “They will see him whom they have pierced.” We will be able to know God only to the extent that the immensity of his love will be manifested to us in this humility, in which he gives all of himself and reserves nothing. It goes against our way of thinking, but we are not yet perfectly Christian. Also, for the Church, we think it must be a triumph, and we are dismayed because we see that things are going badly.

My dear brothers, it is also in the humiliation of the Church that the power of God is manifested. The power of God is humility, as St. Francis understood well when in Praises of God, after having said that God is love, he adds that God is humility: “Tu es humilitas.”  Yes, God is humility because he is love; a love that gives itself, not a possessive love that draws to itself, as paganism believed. According to paganism, God is love, but inasmuch as he attracts all things to himself. On the contrary, in Christianity, God is love, but a love that gives itself completely, that gives itself without measure, that reserves nothing for itself, not even life, not even a drop of blood. He does not want his glory – his glory is love. This is why Jesus does not accept the proclamation of his divinity, because with this proclamation the devil tempts Jesus. The devil knows that Jesus is the Only Begotten Son, the natural Son of God. Then he wants Jesus to avail himself of the power, given to him by the Father, to glorify himself.

It is the same thing that the devil said to Jesus, tempting him in the desert: “Make these stones become bread,” “Throw down, because the angels will gather you,”  “Prostrate yourself and I will give you possession of the earth.” Jesus did nothing! He did not even have a tomb of his own. It was the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea that was lent to him. Absolute poverty! Even dead he must rest in a grave that is not his. This total self-denial is the supreme revelation of God: it is this bottomless humility that is the revelation of his glory.

The devil wanted to proclaim Jesus’ divinity after Jesus performed miracles, because these ostensibly manifested his power. For this reason, when Jesus works miracles, he does not want them to be made public. This is not the manifestation of Christ. The manifestation of Christ is the agony of Gethsemane, it is the seeming abandonment of the Father, it is his death.

This doctrine is wonderful. It is difficult to understand it and much more so to practice it. In fact, in purely human terms, when you want a higher salary, you want others to recognize that you do things well. If others tell you that you do wrong, even when you do the right thing, you rebel. You still have much to learn from our Lord!

Here is the revelation of God. But why does he not want it from the lips of the devil! Because the proclamation of his divinity must be made by the Father and not by those who are against him. How many are there who are against God, but want to use the Church for their machinations! Jesus will only accept from the Father the proclamation of being the Only Begotten Son. He will not say it, but the Father will:

“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased: listen to him!”

These are, therefore, the three points that I observed tonight in listening to the word of God. The first introduces us to the exercises; the second tells us the topic of the exercises; the third tells us that the path to holiness is a downward path because we cannot go up. If holiness were truly an ascent into heaven to the Father, who could accomplish it? What we can do is descend.

Christian life involves two paths: the path by which God raises us to himself in the Holy Spirit and is the ascension of Christ. But if Jesus ascends to heaven, Mary Most Holy is “taken up” into heaven, that is, she is carried. Not even Our Lady could ascend to heaven, if the Holy Spirit did not lift her to himself. Man can do only one thing: descend into the depths of God. The soul’s journey towards God is a descent ever more into one’s nothingness. It is to the extent that we descend that the Holy Spirit lifts us up. It happens as in the scales: if one plate goes up, the other goes down. So if you want to go up to God, you have to go down to the depths.

May the Lord grant us the grace to understand, and, above all, to live what he will tell us. Always remember that the word you hear will be the word that saves you or condemns you. It saves you if the word becomes your life; it condemns you if it does not. “It is not I who judge you, it is my word that judges you,” says Jesus in the Gospel of John. The word that I say to you this evening may very well be your condemnation, if it is not fulfilled in your life. You may not be judged tomorrow. Judgment for us takes place day by day depending on the extent to which we accept the word and realize it in our lives.

May the Lord grant us the grace to welcome this word with the same dispositions of faith and abandonment that Mary had at the words of the angel.

(From “Che Dio vi parli,” Chorabooks 2016, translated by Aurelio Porfiri)

(Photo: geralt at Pixabay)