September 21, 2006
Humility is not a sign of weakness
The recent controversy that arose from Pope Benedict XVI’s statement regarding violence and Islam created a lot of tensions in the world. The Pope was very right in saying that all religions renounce all forms of violence and that nobody should use these acts of aggression against anyone in the name of God.
Many are asking how the brilliant theologian-pope could have been so unaware of the political realities in today's world that he felt he could quote freely, without creating problems, from a 14th-century Byzantine (Orthodox Christian) emperor, then in conflict with the Turkish Muslims, who expressed a negative judgment on Muhammad and jihad.
The Pope, being no ordinary man, may have his own reasons for what he said but the statement was made at the wrong time when Muslim world is over-sensitive to criticism as a result of 9/11 and the events that followed. They have the wrong perception that Christians are waging a war against them. If only they realize that Christ preached love even to our enemies, they will not be suspicious of us and would be more receptive to the idea of dialogue for peaceful solution of inter-faith disputes.
What impressed me in this whole affair was the prompt apology from the Pope, not once but several times, when he realized what he said had hurt the feelings of the Muslims all over. Without much prompting and persuasion he quickly apologized when he realized his “mistake” could cause unrest and even death of innocent people. He has acted in the true spirit of the humility of Christ himself.
Not many of us can do that freely. In our daily lives we say and do so many things that hurt the feelings of others. Many a times we do not even realize that we have hurt others. Even when we finally realize our mistake our ego prevents us from apologizing.
By washing the feet of his apostles, Jesus had demonstrated the most extreme form of humility and love for man and this love resulted in the ultimate sacrifice of His life for us on the cross.
As the followers of Jesus, do we possess that humility and love for others, especially those below us? Are we willing to sacrifice whatever we can for the betterment of others? These are the questions we must pose to ourselves and ponder.
Our Holy Father’s action of humble apology should be a lesson for us in our relationship with those we encounter daily - our spouse, our children, parents, priests, friends and particularly our subordinates and those with dissenting views. If only we can admit our mistakes and say “I am sorry” to them, it would solve a lot of our problems, but that unfortunately, is the most difficult thing to do.
If only our political leaders possess this great virtue of humility, we would not be faced with the current problems in the world. It was the humility of Anwar Sadat that brought peace between Egypt and Israel. If only George Bush had been humble enough to meet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the United Nations recently, his problems with Iran may be more easily dealt with.
Very often humility is seen as a sign of weakness when actually is a sign of strength and a divine gift to man.