|Jesus washing Peter's feet|
The word humility derives from the Latin word humus, “ground” or “soil” and can be understood simply as “down-to-earth,” knowing who we are, where we came from and where we're going. Humility is grasping the truth about ourselves as creatures with limitations and shortcomings, absolutely dependent upon an All-good God for our life and everything we have.
The model of humility is Jesus: “Who, though he was in the form of God...emptied himself…coming in human likeness...humbled himself ...Because of this, God greatly exalted him.” This awareness of who we are challenges us, like Jesus, to serve one another, to wash their feet.
Pride is the opposite of humility. It thinks we are self-sufficient, as if there's no God, as if we're accountable to no one except ourselves.
The Book of Genesis gives us insight into who we are. We are made in the image and likeness of God. That is our dignity. But then in chapter 3 we overstepped our limits and preferred to play God instead. We wanted to be Number One. And what happened? Death: the breaking and collapse of all of our relationships on all levels. With sin, our relationships broke down.
Hence we are born into a world which is broken. That is the Catholic understanding of original sin, a phrase St. Augustine coined. We are like Adam and Eve and the other characters in these primal stories; they mirror us. Genesis, chapters 1 through 11 is a story about ourselves and the damage we do when we play God. Humility is the opposite: recognizing that we are simply creatures with limitations, absolutely dependent upon an All-good God. Luckily for us, God had the final word; and that's why God became one of us in Jesus and through his death/resurrection re-established these relationships.
The Christian answer to the question “who are we?” “What is the ultimate purpose of our lives” acknowledges the tensions that are at the very core of our being. But there is a power beyond us (God) who can heal our brokenness. And this awesome and All-good transcendent power became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth and is alive in our midst by the power of the spirit.
This same God invites us to humbly live a life of discipleship with Jesus, to be attentive to others in ordinary ways, to be generous with what we have, so that one day we can sit down at the banquet table of eternal life.