Naked before God.
That is how I felt; a pilgrim who did not deserve to be standing atop Mount Calvary in Jerusalem. Dim candlelight revealed the edges of the rock hill where Jesus of Nazareth had shed his blood for love of me. I could only stand there in silence; feeling speechless and thoughtless at the place where God’s Heart had burst forever into time and space.
Each day of my pilgrimage, I gradually shed the masks, prejudices, defenses, and other layers that our humanity tends to collect over time. I was able to metaphorically stand naked before God, and others, as I walked the biblical roads.
Reflecting on this conversion experience, I realized that God was teaching me about the virtue which Jesus highly praised: humility. “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4)
Often, our society portrays humility as a miserable attitude wherein we put ourselves down, or think of ourselves as nothing better than dirt. “Humility does not mean false modesty,” explained Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2011. “It indicates our awareness that anything we can do is a gift of God.”
Humility means truly seeing ourselves in God’s eyes—and this is good news! Think about how much God loves you, how highly God thinks of you, how greatly God believes in you; to create you as a unique individual and to become human out of love for you! “God proves his love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Humility means that, all at once, we see our belovedness in God’s sight as well as our nakedness and frailty before God. We realize how we would have nothing without God, yet with God, we have all.
We are in the midst of the Easter Season now. Recall how the Gospel depicts Jesus after his resurrection; retaining his wounds of crucifixion (cf. John 20:25, 27). It is this wounded yet resurrected Jesus who “breathes” the Holy Spirit on the early Church in the Upper Room (cf. John 20:22).
A powerful truth is embodied by Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection: Only when we offer ourselves naked before God and others—accepting the reality of our frailty, woundedness, and weakness, in the light of with God’s mighty love, can we experience the Kingdom of God and eternal life in the Holy Spirit.
Our practice of the virtue of humility is a first step towards this freedom which God desires for us. That is precisely why Easter is a time of rejoicing; when we have followed Christ in the way of humility, we arrive at freedom. In his addresses to Christians, Pope St. John Paul II often said, “We are the Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!” I would venture to say that the virtue of humility is the breath which enables our Alleluia’s.
Whether or not we can ever travel to Jerusalem, all of us can experience this freedom by partaking in the Sacrament of Mercy: Reconciliation. Within this encounter, we can shed accumulated layers of pretense, and bask in the freedom of God’s children.
Let’s encourage one another during this Easter Season. “There is no saint without a past nor a sinner without a future,” Pope Francis remarked during an Easter General Audience in 2016. “It is enough to respond to the call with a humble and sincere heart. The Church is not a community of perfect people, but of disciples on a journey, who follow the Lord because they know they are sinners and in need of his pardon. Thus, Christian life is a school of humility which opens us to grace.”
Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator at Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular column of this Catholic evangelization apostolate that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter Him through pilgrimages, conferences and outreach. PilgrimCenterofHope.org