Friday of the Third Week of Easter
(Acts 9:1-20; John 6:52-59)
In his new apostolic exhortation Pope Francis writes of the need for humiliation. He says that people need to be humiliated so that they may become saintly. He continues that humiliation conforms Christians to Jesus who suffered so much at the hands of humans. He adds that Christ reveals the humility of his Father, who has accompanied His people only to be continually rejected. In today’s first reading Paul undergoes significant humiliation. It may be considered the fundamental step in his journey to saintly prominence.
Paul’s first humiliation is in meeting Jesus whom he dismissed as dead. He has discovered that the cause to which he has dedicated himself is not only vain but also blasphemous. He also suffers the humiliation of being blinded and having to be led about like a child. For a capable man like Paul this humiliation must have been very frustrating. Finally, Paul suffers the humiliation of initially being considered suspect by other Christians. He is feared, no doubt, as a possible double agent. These humiliations prove to be transformative. Paul becomes so humble that he will accept hardship, torture, even execution. Nothing is too great for him to endure in order to complete the mission given to him by the Lord.
It is interesting that Francis does not use “humbling” but “humiliation.” Humbling would be less radical, more a regular step toward self-knowledge. Humiliation implies an inflated self-image that calls for considerable downsizing. Francis is suggesting, perhaps, what our mothers tried to teach us. We must learn the world does not center around us. Rather we have to serve in it, above all, the God who has created and redeemed us.