January 27, May 28, September 27
Chapter 7: On Humility
Let a man consider
that God is always looking at him from heaven,
that his actions are everywhere visible to the divine eyes
and are constantly being reported to God by the Angels.
This is what the Prophet shows us
when he represents God as ever present within our thoughts,
in the words "Searcher of minds and hearts is God" (Ps. 7:10)
and again in the words "The Lord knows the thoughts of men" (Ps.
Again he says,
"You have read my thoughts from afar" (Ps. 138:3)
and "The thoughts of people will confess to You" (Ps. 75:11).
In order that he may be careful
about his wrongful thoughts, therefore,
let the faithful brother say constantly in his heart,
"Then shall I be spotless before Him,
if I have kept myself from my iniquity" (Ps. 17:24).
One of the things I always wanted to get for Dame Maggie, my late
cat, was a bird feeder that I saw. Picture an air conditioner put in
a window backwards, with the protrusion inside. It was like that, but
rather like an aquarium made of one way mirrors. The birds, all
unwitting, came INSIDE to dine in that mirrored cube and I'll bet she
would have loved it. Alas, the price was out of the question.
Ah, how like those birds we are! Unfortunately, we CAN afford the
cubes of mirrored walls all to easily: we create them ourselves, with
our own illusions and ignorance and forgetfulness. We live and move
in the falsity that we are unobserved. We forget altogether that God
and His angels see us in every moment, in every place.
Ever look over your shoulder to see if the boss was around? Ever
relax because your parent or spouse was gone to the store and you had
at least an hour of privacy? Most of us have. Kids behave differently
(a LOT differently!!) when the teacher is out of the classroom or has
turned away from them. We are conditioned to monitor our behavior
according to who is or is not present.
The trouble with God (if one dares put it that way,) is that He is
always in the office, never leaves the classroom, and never goes to
the store. Faced with that truth, we defend ourselves with the only
foolish thing we have left: forgetful denial. Well, sorry, beloveds,
I don't care how good it may feel, even to me, but it is false. He
doesn't leave. He's always there. The spiritual world is all about us
at every second, every instant. We just would rather not credit the
fact, but that in no way makes it otherwise. It's a big mistake to
think of the omnipresence of God as outdated, as something that
happened "back then" but not now. That omnipresence never changes.
As the poet Francis Thompson put it:
"The angels keep their ancient places,
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
'Tis we, 'tis our estranged faces
That miss the many splendored thing."
Now, what is all this doing in a chapter on humility? Easy! We can be
proud if we think we are not found out. The child who deals with a
teacher who hasn't seen is a VERY different kid from the one who has
been caught! We HAVE to be humble if we admit we have been caught. We
have to remind ourselves that nothing happens in secret and, having
said that, that our track record is hardly so sterling as the one we
would like to present to the world. Humility is truth, truth is the
correct accordance of the mind with reality. And the reality is that
we all fall regularly!
Ever hear married or partnered folks talk about things they quit
doing when no longer single? They thought they were alone before!
Ever have the illusion of privacy yourself, like just before shower
with the door firmly closed. Ha! Thought you were alone, didn't you?
Sigh... it is so deep in us!
Now, look, this is not to get you crazy about video cameras in every
place. (Look how used we are to them, in fact!) The whole purpose
here is just to get us more in tune with reality and the reality is
that we could always be better. So there comes conversion of manners,
that other Benedictine vow: we must never stop striving to be better.
Face it, m'dears, we live and move and have our being in the banquet
hall of the greatest King, whether we credit that or not, it is so.
Love and prayers,