During the first days of the Fransiscan movement, St. Francis surrounded himself with disciples who were eager to learn from him and imitate his life of simplicity. One of these was a man named Brother Masseo. Brother Masseo became very convicted one day after hearing Francis preach on the virtue of humility- so convicted that he resolved to forsake all other pursuits and seek only after humility! Brother Masseo went back to his cell and for days on end he fasted and prayed late into the night, begging God to send him to Hell for his sins. All this was in an effort to cultivate humility. He continued like this until one day in his despair he wandered out into the woods where he was startled by a voice from heaven:
“Masseo, Masseo,” said the voice.
“My Lord!” cried Brother Masseo, knowing the voice was that of Christ.
“Masseo,” said Christ, “What will you give me in exchange for the humility you seek?”
“My very eyes!” Brother Masseo called back.
“But I do not want your eyes,” Christ replied, “Keep them, and have my grace as well.”
From that moment on, Brother Masseo was filled with true humility and unspeakable joy.
This little story from “The Little a Flowers of St. Francis”, one of the earliest collections of tales about him and his followers, is a deep parable that rewards contemplation. Brother Masseo ultimately learns that humility cannot be achieved through effort but that it is a gift of grace. He also learns that Christ has no use of our eyes. In other words, our high or low view of ourself and others is of no value to Him. Masseo was trying to obtain humility by lamenting about his wretched estate. Yet it is this very kind of self involved thinking that is the enemy of humility. C.S. Lewis once wrote: “humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less…” I couldn’t put it any better myself.
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…