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The First Shall Be Last

We have to practice two kinds of humility toward all our neighbors—one is of knowledge, the other of affection. 

The humility of knowledge consists in recognizing and holding ourselves in our inmost soul to be inferior to all, and that is why Jesus Christ advises us in His Gospel to take the lowest place: “Sit down in the lowest place.” (Luke 14:10). He does not tell us to sit down in a place in the middle, nor in one of the last, but in the last; that is, we ought to have such an opinion of ourselves that we must esteem ourselves inferior to all, as St. Bernard exclaims: “That thou shouldst take thy seat alone and least of all, not only not putting thyself before others, but not even daring to compare thyself with others.”

The reason is that you do not know but that those whom you deem inferior to yourself, and above whom you exalt yourself, may not be far more dear to God and be placed hereafter at the right hand of the Highest. When St. Paul teaches us that in holy humility we must believe all others to be better than ourselves, he also teaches us the way to accomplish this, namely, not by considering the good we have in ourselves, but that which others have or may have: “each one not considering the things that are his own, but those that are other men’s.” (Phil. 2:4). Upon this St. Thomas founds this doctrine, that all the evil that is in man and is done by man comes from man, and that all the good that is in man and is done by man comes from God. 

The humility of affection consists in the recognition that we are more miserable than anyone else, and to love to be regarded as such by others. To be vile and abject in our own eyes through the knowledge that we have of ourselves is the humility of necessity, to which we are compelled by the obvious truth of it. But to have a sincere desire to be looked upon as vile and abject by others, this is true and virtuous humility of the heart. It is this humility of affection, this humility of the heart taught us by Jesus Christ, which makes us as little children and enables us to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. 

This article is taken from a chapter in Humility of Heart by Fr. Cajetan Mary de Bergamo, which is available from TAN Books.

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