20 August 2022

Smacking the prideful

St. Bernard

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

Being humble ain't easy. It requires several intellectual and volitional conversions that violate our sense of Self. First, I have to acknowledge that I am not a free-floating individual who creates and sustains his own reality – I am not my own god. Pride says otherwise. Pride says that I am infinitely worthy of self-worship and deserving of every privilege, every gift, every luxury that comes my way. Most of all, Pride tells me that I do not need you or anyone else as I move through this life. I am self-sufficient, wholly self-contained, and perfectly formed just as I am. Everything I say, do, feel, and think is true, good, and beautiful simply b/c I say it, do it, feel it, and think it. I am the measure and the one who measures. And the one who matters most in the measuring is me. In fact, you matter only in relation to me, so your worth is dependent on my wants and needs. Like I said, getting to humility ain't easy. How does a self-created god become humble? He runs across a bigger god who shows him the Light. He encounters God Himself who gives him Light.

Jesus is busy smacking around the scribes and Pharisees – a favorite pastime. Yes, they are hypocrites. Yes, they are puffed up blowhards. Yes, they need smacking. But Jesus' eye is on his followers. He's not smacking the religious-types just to be smacking them. He's smacking them and looking at us, “Do you see what you could become?” You don't have to be ordained or degreed or solemnly professed to need a good smacking by humility. You just have to believe that you don't need God. Or that you don't need God anytime soon. Or that you don't need God right now for this specific problem. We live, move, and have our being in Him. We “be” in His being. We are imperfect beings in His perfect Being. Acknowledging this truth is the first step toward humility. No measure of phylacteries, tassels, cassocks, religious habits, academic degrees, locutions, or apparitions can ever or will ever grant you humility. Jesus says, “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” That's not a threat; it's a promise. 

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