LITTLE FLOWERS OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, Chapter 32
HOW BROTHER MASSEO OBTAINED FROM CHRIST THE VIRTUE OF HUMILITY
I think that what we should reflect upon in this chapter is the relationship between humility and grace. There's sort of a story within the story here. Brother Masseo only hears about a man about whom it is said, "his humility was to him a means of sanctification, and confirmed him in the grace of God." And having heard this story, Brother Masseo determines to strive to obtain this virtue of humility.
The important thing about grace is, every good thing we have, in the physical realm and in the spiritual realm, is by the grace of God. We have no hope of earning or deserving it. But, we can observe that God grants more by grace to those who diligently seek to lead holy and godly lives.
The important thing about humility is, it's so much easier to see the faults in others than to see our own faults, so if we don't have humility, we can easily be deceived into thinking we're doing pretty good at leading godly lives, and so we should expect to receive the things God promises to the godly, answers to prayer and so forth, before all these people around us that we can see aren't leading as godly lives as we are.
I'm really impressed with how much I've read and heard lately about the importance of humility, and variations on the theme of "judge not, lest ye be judged." I think there's a great danger, as we make progress along our mystical paths, in assuming we've accomplished or received something because of our own efforts or merits. It's by the grace of God that we're even on this path. Our best attitude should be one of humilty, and of thankfluness, love, and devotion.
As a sort of thought question, to spur discussion, is there a difference between the story within the story, what Brother Masseo heard, and the "on stage" story of Brother Masseo's own experiences? Maybe Brother Masseo's humility is somethng like Dorothy's ruby slippers. He sought it with tears, and offered the eyes from his head for it, but he had it all the time and didn't know it. The man he just heard about had humility from the beginning. Is that really possible? There's something like a catch 22 here. True humility isn't something we'd be particularly aware of. The most humble people I know don't seem to think of themselves as particularly humble.