My mind often works in garden imagery and in loose paraphrases of saints like Josemaria Escriva, so please bear with me.
We are flower pots. Flower pots are simple and often unadorned. On their own, they are nothing special. But they are not meant to exist on their own. They exist to hold life, beauty, and goodness. It is the flower’s beauty that adorns the pot, but the flower pot can’t bring forth this life on its own; it needs the Gardener to plant these things first.
Our goodness and our beauty are not our own. We did not plant these things, nor did we do much to cultivate them, except by being open to receive cool water and a good pruning once in awhile. Our virtues and good works are always pointing back to the one who did the planting. My soul doth magnify the Lord.
Humility is a tricky virtue. We see it as the other end of the spectrum from pride, or having a deep satisfaction with one's own achievements. For these reasons we often think that humility means downplaying the aspects of ourselves that should be affirmed, brushing off genuine compliments given to us. We worry that we are being too proud by accepting someone else’s recognition of our goodness. But is that really giving due justice to the Gardener’s work, work that He sacrificed so much to make happen?
True humility, on the other hand, allows the Gardener to be acknowledged and praised. Humility is recognizing the gifts we have been given, while also recognizing that those gifts come not from us but freely from the Lord. Our gifts, our talents, our virtues, our beauty, our goodness all point back to the generosity, love, beauty, and goodness of our Heavenly Father.
Mary is the most perfect human example of true humility. When the angel greeted Mary with “Hail, Full of Grace,” she didn’t respond by saying: “Oh, no you’re too kind.” And when she was asked to be the mother of God, she didn’t say: “No, you’re crazy. Go find someone better.” She responded so humbly with her Magnificat, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…for He has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.” Mary recognized that, without God’s grace she would not have been worthy for the task of being the Mother of God, but she also recognized that the Lord had given her the grace. She knew she would be remembered for the rest of time but she knew that it was because the Lord chose to work through her. Her whole life was a testament to God’s love and mercy.
Similarly, our whole life is a testament to the Divine Gardener who delights in us every moment of our existence, and who adorns us in His beauty, His goodness, His grace. Let us pray that we can learn from our Lady’s example of humility and allow ourselves to be delighted in.
Reflect: What gifts have you been given? Are you using those gifts to bring yourself glory, or to point others to the Lord?
Act: Ask your spouse, significant other, or a close family member or friend to tell you everything he or she loves about you. Allow your goodness to be affirmed and accept it graciously.