As we approach the month of June and celebrate the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I found myself in prayer, contemplating God’s boundless and passionate love for us. I sometimes find praying in the Ignatian style to be helpful as I try to contemplate Jesus’ teachings. Part of this prayer is to rely on my imagination as I place myself in the scene. Dealing with the concepts of personal integrity and humility pushed me to be with Jesus at the last supper.
The Last Supper
It was evening and the air was cool. The room was small but cozy, walls painted in light yellow and beige. Pillows were on the floor and the disciples gathered at table with Jesus for his last supper. We had lentil soup, bread, and wine. We dipped our bread in freshly made olive oil made that week. After we ate, Jesus stood up and got everybody’s attention. The gospel of John 13: 4-51 recounts the story:
“So, he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
When Jesus came to me, he knelt and grabbed my left foot. The softness of his touch made me hold my breath. As I looked down on him, I found myself thoughtless, wondering what I was going to feel. I wanted to carry a conversation, but the moment told me to be still, to simply feel his presence and his care. He washed my right foot and then dried both feet. He looked at me one last time and smiled. I returned a smiled. I felt special by Jesus’ love and care. I then felt a tear drop down my cheek. My body became warm, and my palms got sweaty as I saw him move to the next disciple.
How confident was Jesus in who he was that he proceeded to kneel before us and wash our feet? The gospel of John, again, helps us understand this identity:
Jesus is explaining to the Pharisees about the good Shepard and his sheep in John 10: 29-30. They are wondering if he is the Messiah and who are his sheep. Jesus replies, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Later, after Jesus explains to the disciples that he is the way and is going back to the father, Thomas wants Jesus to show him the Father. Jesus replies, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:10)
Jesus is the incarnate Word of God, the Son of the Father, consubstantial with the Father. The Holy Spirit binds them together, but also binds us together: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20).
What is Integrity and Humility?
It takes integrity, humility, and self-confidence to perform Jesus’ act of washing our feet as he taught us about serving one another. He is not thinking highly of himself, and he is not exalting himself. His firm confidence on who he was allowed him to kneel before me and wash my feet. It would be natural to think like Peter and react with objection, “No … you shall never wash my feet.” (John 13:8). But in accepting Jesus’ desire to wash my feet, I get to feel in my heart his sense of being one with the Father, full of love and mercy. That feeling stirs my heart, and I feel compelled to pass on that love and mercy as well.
I decided to look up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of integrity: “the quality or state of being complete or undivided.” I also recently read from Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation2, “In great saints, you find that perfect humility and perfect integrity coincide.”
What is humility but being precisely the person that I am before God. I am no greater than or smaller than I actually am. If I think that I am greater than I am, and I am letting pride take over me. If I think that I am being smaller than I am, I deprecate myself against God’s truth of who I am. I playdown and push away against God who is truth. But God resides in me, and God’s divinity is my divinity … thus, this is part of my being that God wants me to attain.
In humility, as I acknowledge who I am as God sees me in a truthful manner, I consent to God being my all and I surrender myself to God. So, what holds me back from being humble so that I can have integrity?
There are attachments to this world that pull me in one direction or another and don’t allow me to be my true self. These attachments can be material, emotional or spiritual. For example, I may feel attached to my house or car (like I really like them and can’t envision myself without them), or to money, to my body and health (I may worry and feel anxious about my health), or to anger and resentment, or as St. John of the Cross would say, even to certain forms of prayer.
The background noise in the world can also affect my integrity. I want to gel with the current movements of thoughts and action. I want to “fit in.” These pressures, mainly stemmed from my desire to be accepted, can guide, and direct my thoughts and action. I may run the risk of compromising my beliefs and values. I may even be tempted to compromise my faith and my relationship with God.
Where do I go from here?
So how do I remain humble so that I can have integrity? I lean on St. John of the Cross3 and try to die to myself slowly but steadily. In detaching myself from the material, emotional and spiritual realms, I become naked before God, and let God see me as I am, as I truly am. Here, I can let God look at me and love me with all my good qualities and faults. In this relationship of love, God heals me and completes me.
As I look at Jesus one more time, His Sacred Heart overflowing with boundless love, compassion, and mercy, I can see he understands our brokenness and lack of integrity. So, I ask Jesus to pray for me, a sinner with many faults, to heal me, to complete me. In this month of June, what a good opportunity to ask Jesus to have mercy on us and heal us, to let us be open to his boundless and passionate love for us!