Sunday August 30, 1998
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homilist: Father Steve Skelly
Todays 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 Gods 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 Im 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 todays world. Conversely, it is extremely rare today to
hear a person, in times of trouble say "it is Gods Will" or "Gods Will be done" or "if it is Gods 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 strangers 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. Johns 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 pridefuls 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 Gods Wisdom. They will ponder
the thought that "God forgives sinners too easily, heck God doesnt 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 doesnt 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 Gods 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. Dont 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 Gods Kingdom where "you will be repaid
at the resurrection of the just."