Humility is a special gift that helps us to discover our own talents. We ask for the grace to appreciate the gifts given, and also to accept our own imperfections and limitations. God gives each of us gifts and talents and we are called to invest our gifts for the living and for the better of the world. By caring and having compassion for others, we somehow make our gifts grow to their potential, and also make our Christian vocation relevant to the lives of others. Christian living requires us to accept differences, and learn from others, and thus helps to improve the quality of life. Humility helps us to recognize everything we have that comes from God, and we need to always give thanks to God. It is the essence of John's message. He himself chose to live the virtue of humility to the extreme, and that simplicity of life is enjoyable.
John disciplined himself in the wilderness. God's Spirit was with him. John recognized that where God's love is absent, cruelty and brutality reign. In the wilderness, life is stripped bare to simply just food and drink. The rule of survival dominates. There is no mercy between the strong and the weak. When life is simply about food and drink; life becomes a battleground.
By nature, wilderness is a hostile place both in terms of extremely fluctuations in climate between day and night, and also the harsh living conditions. By witnessing wild animals who prey on each other for food, John witnessed the vanity of life. For John, without God's love, we live in vain, because life would disappear overnight without any trace. John detached himself from all that a human being desires to have. John chose to live in the wilderness because there is an absence of praise and criticism. In the wilderness, human power, prestige, and wealth are meaningless.
In his public ministry, John was humble both in words and deeds. For John, humility was not a sign of weakness. He recognized that Jesus is his Lord and God, and he is very proud of Jesus. We are all proud of being God's children. We are proud of doing something good and loveable. Pride becomes bad when we believe that our voice is better than God's. Proud becomes evil when we want to lord over others. John was very proud of Jesus. He spoke highly of him with utmost respect and reverence. John said,
'The one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am unfit to carry his sandals'. Mat 3,11.
When Jesus asked John to baptise him, John replied,
'It is I who need baptism from you' Mat, 3,14.
For those who refuse to practise humility, John was very strong in his language, calling them 'Brood of vipers'. He warned them that, unless they repent, they would certainly be burnt in eternity. He warns those who bear 'rotten fruit' will surely not escape punishment,
'Any tree which fails to produce good fruits will be cut down and thrown on the fire'. And again, he will 'gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out' Mat 3,12.
Calling them the 'Brood of vipers', John reminded them of the story of The Fall when the evil spirit was disguised, in the shape of a serpent, who tempted Adam and Eve to bear not the good fruit as God has created them. Listening to the serpent they arrogantly disobeyed God, and that opened the gate for sin and death to enter the world. The 'Brood of vipers' in this context was associated with an arrogant attitude and damnation.
Humility is the ability and the willingness to learn from God and from others. Repentance leads to reconciliation, and that is what we daily need to pray for.