by Fr. Efren C. Jimenez, OFM
Christians esteem humility as the highest of human virtues, considered to be a lofty ideal, like a queen virtue. But if humility is an ideal to be lived, why do we spurn being humiliated? What is our response to a situation of humiliation?
A Case in Point
Last August 16, 2016, we were invited by the DENR to present our case opposing a known company operating within the Upper Marikina Water Basin Reservation, and another well-known developer constructing a subdivision in the same place (along Infanta-Marikina Highway, Brgy. Pinugay, Baras/Antipolo). This was one of several meetings we had with DENR officials. This time they have invited the company in question to face us. At one point of the discussion, the lady President of the mining company stood up and faced us (stockholders and complainants), and begun to lambast and to castigate especially two of us priests, Fr. Jovar Vergara and myself. She rebuked us of our involvement to stop their quarrying, saying they have the legal right to do so, and that we have destroyed the name of their company. She added that it is a shame for us to distribute Holy Communion during the mass, and warned us at the same time that “kung ano man ang mangyari sa kapatid ko” (the older sister is said to have cancer) may pananagutan kayo..!” Our lead counsel, Atty. Chris Monsod was present to witness the show of arrogance.
Fr. Jovar and I humbly accepted those reviling words in the midst of a conference room packed with government officials and stockholders like us. What was our response to such public humiliation? We were calm and unperturbed in the midst of the deafening silence. I signaled to Fr. Jovar not to rebut, though I must admit I was perspiring amidst a freezing room. In our hearts we knew the truth of what we were doing and westood firm on our commitment to environmental justice.
How do we relate the experience of being humiliated to Humility? Is that the kind of experience within the concept of a virtue? To the modern mind it is contrary to the natural disposition of man. But history will show that Jesus silently endured the physical, mental and moral affront of his enemies. Matmaha Gandhi demonstrated the ironic silence of non-violence (words or physical resistance).
Humility may require of us acts of passivity or self-limitation in response even to the basest affronts, degrading or shameful acts to which the most the most natural reaction of any “self-respecting person” would be to fight back and feel justified in doing so.
The virtue of humility may be said to have lost much of its religious or philosophical basis, but it remains silently active in the heart of our moral life. For it iswritten: “. . . humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).
As published in the March 26 issue of the Parish Bulletin.