If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all. (Mark 9:35)
If we really want to understand what this means, I think we have to meditate on Jesus standing before Pontius Pilate. [SPANISH]
Christ had made what St. Paul calls His “noble confession.” That is, Jesus had declared His true identity. He possesses absolute authority. There is only One Who rules all. Christ, only-begotten Son of the eternal Father: He rules the cosmos. Jesus declared this to the Sanhedrin. They convicted Him of blasphemy and sent Him to Pontius Pilate for execution.
So there He stood, the Emperor of All Things, before a feckless, cowardly Roman careerist, at a shabby excuse for a tribunal of justice, condemned for speaking the truth about Himself.
Because this new, divine Adam loves you and me as much as He does, He bowed His head, accepted His death sentence without protest, and took up His cross silently.
Could anyone really practice humility, the holy virtue of humility, in a world without Christ? Pagan nations have not generally prized humility as a virtue. At least not in their own citizens. Of course they have loved having humble slaves. As the Lord Jesus said, “The pagans lord it over each other. The masters insist on making their authority felt.”
Ambitious pagan people jockey for position, stab each other in the back, claw their way to the top, stomping on the heads of their closest associates—and for what? Status in some puny pecking order.
Years ago, I had friends among the aspiring avant-garde artists in New York City. One friend of mine got stabbed in the back by a rival. I sympathized. But he said, “It’s par for the course. The fighting is so fierce because the stakes are so low.”
Maybe that brings to mind another example of vicious infighting for low stakes? While the outside world goes on with its business, paying no attention? Maybe the upper hierarchy of the Church?
Anyway… Meanwhile, here stands Christ—with omnipotent power, glory, eternal beatitude in His sovereign hands. With those very hands, He grasped the cross He carried for us.
Of course, the most humbling thing for us about Jesus Christ’s incandescent humility is this: this is Divine Mercy for us. Let’s humble ourselves and acknowledge two things.
1. For all our vain human ambitions, we have absolutely no hope at all for anything truly good, without Christ, without His self-sacrifice, for our sakes. And…
2, He loves us enough—loves us, lumps and all, foolishness and all; Almighty God, our Creator, loves us enough to stand before Pilate and bow His head, so that we won’t have to bow our heads in shame for our sins, when the day of reckoning comes. And He loved us enough to satisfy for our sins as one of us. God Himself satisfied for human sin as a human being. This is even more humbling.
So we can say to God Almighty, “Look, Father! Our brother Jesus is just! The human race does not totally suck. Not at all. We have Jesus. We have all of His saints, especially His Blessed Mother!” And when we cry out to God like this–which is what we are doing every time we pray Holy Mass together–He smiles and says, “Yes, My children. Yes.”
Speaking of people we can boast about: Three years ago tomorrow, I–along with hundreds of priests–concelebrated Mass with the pope at the National Shrine in Washington. For the canonization of a saint. The apostle of California… Junipero Serra.
Father Serra abandoned all comfort and security in order to bring the good news of Jesus into a violent, pagan world. California had no order and no peace back then, because the natives had never heard of the Prince of Peace, and the Spanish colonial authorities didn’t abide by His teachings. Father Sera and his brother Franciscans risked their lives to establish their missions as oases of prayer, peace, and good order.
Why doesn’t California have any peace and good order now? Well, we can’t blame St. Junipero Serra for that.
What we can do: Pray to the saint who is also one of the Founding Fathers of the USA. Pray that he will help us bear witness to the love of Christ. Humbly, patiently, through thick and thin.