Pope Francis: Christian Humility is Not Masochism, But Love

April 17, 2015

Santa Marta

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Humiliation for its own sake is masochism, but when it is suffered and endured in the name of the Gospel it makes us like Jesus. That was what Pope Francis said in his homily at the Mass at Casa Santa Marta, as he invited Christians to never cultivate sentiments of hatred, but to give themselves time to discover within themselves sentiments and attitudes that are pleasing to God: love and dialogue.

Is it possible for people to react to difficult situations the way God does? It is, the Pope said, and it is all a question of time. Time to allow ourselves to be permeated by the sentiments of Jesus. Francis explains this by looking at the episode in the days reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The Apostles were called before the Sanhedrin, accused of preaching the Gospel that the doctors of the law did not want to hear.

Don’t give hatred time

However, one of the Pharisees, Gamaliel, suggested frankly that the Apostles should be allowed to continue to preach, because if the teaching of the Apostles “were of human origin, it would destroy itself,” which would not happen if it came from God. The Sanhedrin accepted the suggestion – that is, the Pope said, they chose to take “time.” They did not react by following the instinctive sentiments of hatred. And this, Pope Francis said, is a correct “remedy” for every human being:

Give time to time. This is useful for us when we have wicked thoughts about others, wicked feeling, when we have hostility, hatred, to not allow it to grow, to stop it, to give time to time. Time puts things in harmony, and makes us see things in the right light. But if you react in a moment of anger, it is certain you will be unjust. You will be unjust. And you will hurt yourself, too. Here’s some advice: time, time in the moment of temptation.

The one who pauses gives God time

When we nurse resentments, Pope Francis noted, it is inevitable that there will be outbursts. “It will burst out in insults, in war,” he observes, and “with these evil thoughts against others, we are battling against God;” while God, on the other hand, “loves others, loves harmony, loves love, loves dialogue, loves walking together.” It even “happens to me,” the Pope admitted: “When something is not pleasing, the first feeling is not of God, it is wicked, always.” Instead, we need to give ourselves pause, he said, and we must give “space to the Holy Spirit,” so that “we might get it right, that we may arrive at peace.” Like the Apostles, who were scourged and left the Sanhedrin “rejoicing” at having suffered “dishonour for the sake of the Name” of Jesus.

Pride of being first leads you to want to kill others; humility, even humiliation, leads you to become like Jesus. And this is one thing that we don’t think. In this moment in which so many of our brothers and sisters are being martyred for the sake of Jesus’ Name, they are in this state, they have, in this moment, the joy of having suffered dishonour, and even death, for the Name of Jesus. To fly from the pride of being first, there is only the path of opening the heart to humility, to humility that never arrives without humiliation. This is one thing that is not naturally understood. It is a grace we must ask for.”

Martyrs and the humble resemble Christ

It is the grace, the Pope concluded, of the “imitation of Christ.” It is not only the martyrs of today who bear witness to this imitation; but also those “many men and women who suffer humiliation each day, and for the good of their own family,” and who “shut their mouths, who don’t speak, suffer for their love of Jesus”:

And this is the sanctity of the Church, this joy that humiliation gives, not because humiliation is beautiful, no, that would be masochism, no: it is because with that humiliation, you imitate Jesus. Two attitudes: that of closing what brings you to hatred, to wrath, to want to kill others; and that of being open to God on the path of Jesus, that makes us accept humiliations, even very serious humiliations, with that interior joy that makes you of being on the path set out by Jesus. 

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