VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The connection between humiliation and humility is “mathematical,” Pope Francis said; being put in one’s place is the only path to being humble.

“When someone says something awful about us, I think every one of us” immediately wants to react by saying, “That’s not true” or even by giving “a response that’s even more cutting,” the pope said Feb. 1 in his homily at Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

But, “if you are not able to bear humiliation in your life, you are not humble,” the pope said. “It’s mathematical.”

Citing the day’s first reading of the story of King David suffering jeers and the insult of his son trying to take his throne, Pope Francis said, “David’s destiny, which is holiness, comes through humiliation.”

David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and tried to cover it up by having Bathsheba’s husband killed. In the end, the pope said, David recognizes he is a sinner and repents.

“God forgives the sin; David converts, but the wounds of corruption are difficult to heal,” the pope said. “We see this in many parts of the world.”

David reaches the state of holiness, the pope said, but “it comes through humiliation.”

In the same way, he said, the holiness God gives as a gift to individuals and to the church “comes through the humiliation of his son, who allows himself to be insulted, who allows himself to be placed on the cross — unjustly. And this son of God who humbles himself, this is the path of holiness.”

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace of humility for each of us, for the whole church, but also for the grace to understand that humility cannot be achieved without humiliation,” the pope prayed.