There is a line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet that I have always loved. It comes in Act 1, scene 5: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
It’s such a wonderful encounter in the play, and it serves as such a wonderful illustration of the necessary humility that we all must embrace when it comes to our own intellect and our so-called “rational” mind. There really are limits to our understanding of this vast and wonder-filled universe of ours. In fact, I will go further and say we learn true humility from God Himself Who is Himself the most humble. He proves His divine Humility by making Himself weak on our behalf. He makes Himself small to overcome our smallness. He makes Himself vulnerable to overcome our vulnerability to sin. He makes Himself poor to overcome our spiritual poverty. He makes Himself subject to death (He Who is the Originator of Life) to destroy death for us. As it has been said on the day of His Birth in Bethlehem: Two angels peered over the edge of heaven and looked down into the Manger and said to one another “Oh my! See how small God has made Himself!”
You see, it takes real power to be humble. It takes an exercise of power to be humble. In fact, the helpless in their own mind can never be truly humble, only the powerful can be humble. And God, Who has no one greater than Himself to humble Him, exercises His unlimited power to limit Himself in the Incarnation so that He might free us from our limitations to be “like” Him!
And this brings us to our Gospel Lesson today: At that time, Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.” Mark 9:33-41
Here our Lord Jesus confronts His disciples as they were discussing among themselves who was the greatest among them. It is interesting that when the Lord confronted the disciples about what they were discussing, they were reluctant to tell Him. As an aside, when you get embarrassed about what you were talking about with another, that is a sure sign that you probably shouldn’t have been saying those things!
Jesus uses this moment of embarrassment of the disciples and their shameless talk of “who is the greatest” to teach them about real authority and real power. He takes a small child (tradition says this child was a man who would one day be a great saint – Ignatius) and sits him on His knee and says “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
Think about it. This insight into the power of humility sets you free to receive what you could never hope to receive by demanding your “rights.” Or asserting your “authority” over someone else. The bounty of humility enlarges your soul to being fit to hold all the blessings and joys of the All-Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Imagine your soul so enlarged to hold the entire universe! Who in their right mind would trade these blessings for mere power? Humility grants me the freedom to be “like” Christ. There is no other virtue more important or more valuable to my soul!
Today, let us abandon the insanity of mere power for the deep and eternal wisdom of humility. This humility that reveals that true leadership only flows from selfless service to others. And as we approach the Feast of the Nativity where God Himself displayed this humility to all creation by making Himself small enough to fit in a manger, let us wisely flee from the foolish slavery of mere authority and embrace with joy the unmeasured Love our God has for us in coming to us as a Child to reverse the sickness of the whole human race. Today, Christ is born. Let us go to meet Him in humility!
P.S. Our daily devotionals will be taking a break after Christmas and before the new year to do some maintenance on our website and to get ready from some important growth and blessings for our work. Words fail me to thank you enough for your encouragements and your prayers. Who knows what God will grant us next year? In humility, let us prepare to enthusiastically offer our free “yes” to every open door He presents us so as to make the most of the time and gifts He has given us. 2015 is going to be filled with opportunity. Let us joyously embrace all that this will mean for us!