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Sunday August 30, 1998

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Homilist: Father Steve Skelly

SIR 3:17-18;20:28-29

HEB 12:18-19;22-24

LK 14:1;7-14

 

 

Today’s Gospel parable through mainly intended for the Pharisees was preserved in the inspired Gospel because it has a lesson for all people for all time. This lesson concerns the sin of PRIDE, "The Mother of all sin." A prideful Christian, that is to say, a prideful follower of the humble Christ, is a contradiction in terms.

 

What is this thing called pride?

Pride is a capital sin. Capital sins are called ‘capital’ because they include other sins. There are seven

capital sins: Pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth.

 

Hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to the love of God; It denies God’s goodness; and it

curses God as the one who forbids sins and inflicts punishment.

 

How many times have we said or heard these statements:

-How can there be a good God in heaven when at the same time there is AIDS, abortion, war,

starvation, genocide, infanticide, euthanasia, murder, rape, pedophilia, incest, etc?

-How can there be a good God if babies are allowed to be born with AIDS and drug addictions?

-How can there be a good God if I’m to expect judgement and punishment in the next life for all my

bad actions in this life?

-If God is all loving, how can the Church tell me that there will be judgement, that there one may not

wind up in heaven after all?

-How dare God take away all my fun and enjoyment.

 

These are all statements of pride common in today’s world. Conversely, it is extremely rare today to

hear a person, in times of trouble say "it is God’s Will" or "God’s Will be done" or "if it is God’s Will"

 

Christ, the Son of God, lowered himself to our level - yes, I said lowered - when he took on our human

nature. He was born in a stable; raised in the unknown little village of Nazareth, earned his keep as a

country carpenter and stone mason; died on the cross with two thieves as companions, and was buried

in a stranger’s grave. Could he have done more to induce us to listen to his advice when he said,

"Learn of me, for I am humble of heart"?

 

Yet there are Christians who are vain and proud. All sin proceeds from self-love, for we never commit

sin without coveting some gratification for self. From self-love or pride spring those three branches of

sin mentioned in St. John’s Letter (1 JN 2:16): "The inordinate desires of the flesh, the concupiscence

of the eyes, and the pride of life": which are love of pleasure, love of riches, and love of honors which

Jesus speaks against when he says: "For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled..." How will

this ‘humbling’ take place: Jesus again tells us: "The first shall be last and the last shall be first."

 

St. John Chrysoston has this to say about the "exalted one of this life":

Examine the graves of the rich and powerful of this world, and find, if you can, some trace of the

luxury in which they lived, of the pleasures they so eagerly sought, and so abundantly enjoyed.

What remains of their magnificent retinues and costly adornments? What remains of those

ingenious devices destined to gratify their senses and banish the weariness of life? What has

become of that brilliant society by which they were surrounded? Where are the numerous

servants who awaited their command?

Nothing remains of their sumptuous banquets. The sounds of laughter and mirth are no longer

heard. A somber silence reigns in these homes of the dead.

 

But draw nearer and see what remains of their earthly tenements, their bodies which they loved so

much. Naught but dust and ashes, worms and corruption.

 

The prideful Christian will shun any contact with sinners - Thank God they are not like their

neighbors. The prideful will cover their ears when any scandal is mentioned. Yet they are always

up-to-date on all the local gossip, and are always ready to condemn immediately the unfortunate

individual involved in the so-called ‘scandal,’ without knowing all the circumstances.

 

Neither do the authorities placed by Christ over them in the Church escape the prideful’s severe

censorship. The normal, humble Christian knows that their deacons, priests, and individual bishops

are not infallible, and that they can make mistakes at times, but to the proud, self-opinionated

Christian, these authorities are always wrong except when their decisions agree to the letter with

their own personal opinions. We find this to be very common today with the "Cafeteria Catholics"

those who see their faith beliefs as a "buffer" where they pick and choose what they wish to believe

and not believe.

 

Worse still, the proud Christian sometimes even becomes a critic of God’s Wisdom. They will ponder

the thought that "God forgives sinners too easily, heck God doesn’t know them as well as I do." They

will sometimes say, "The ‘sinners’ prosper, they are blessed with good health, a happy family, more

than their share of the worldly goods - and here I am who never failed God, who always did what was

right and even more, and I am neglected by God. God doesn’t know who his real friends are."

 

These are the questionings of the proud soul. Such Christians raise themselves above God and their

neighbors in their own minds. They choose the first places, and from their self-appointed height

they look down on their fellow guests at God’s banquet. Thankfully, there are few whose pride

leads them to all these extremes, but there are far too many who set themselves up as judges over

their neighbor and appoint themselves as the models to be imitated by all others.

 

What is a good general remedy against pride? Reflect on the terrible punishment which the angels

brought upon themselves by the one sin of pride. They were instantly cast from heaven into the

lowest depths of hell. Now, if pure spirits like the angels received such punishment, what can we as

humans expect since we are but dust and ashes? God is ever the same, and there is no distinction of

persons before His justice.

 

St. Augustine tells us, "Humility makes men angels, and pride makes angels devils." St. Bernard states

that "Pride sends man from the highest elevation to the lowest abyss, but humility raises him from the

lowest abyss to the highest elevation."

 

Humility is necessary but elusive. Always be grateful - to God, friends, enemies, your children, and

your spouse. Get in the habit of saying "thank you" many times a day. If you are always grateful, even

for insults and injustices - you will always be humble. Make a daily examination of conscience....and

dig deep. Go regularly to confession with a confessor who knows you. Always start with the sin you

are most ashamed of. Cultivate frankness in your friends & family. Don’t punish their honest criticism

with pouting. Finally, pray. Its only in the presence of God that we can sincerely say that we are

nothing, we are nothing.

 

Jesus sums it up best when he says, "he who humbles himself will be exaulted," that this exaultation

may not occur in this life, but it will occur in our real life in God’s Kingdom where "you will be repaid

at the resurrection of the just."