by Father William R. Dulaney
Stories of drivers, lost and too embarrassed or stubborn to ask for directions, amaze and amuse us.
We chuckle and shake our heads in disbelief when we see someone, frustrated and enraged but too thick-headed to yell “help,” abandon a project.
We’re disgusted with ourselves when we ignore good advice, do something our own way, and wind up with a mess on our hands.
Such situations — frequent in occurrence, comically human, and often self-defeating — are evidence of the existence of the deadly sin of pride and its accompanying vices: vanity, arrogance and hypocrisy.
When pride enters our lives, we’re likely to begin thinking we’re better than others, know it all, and have no need to depend on anyone for anything. The Bible and Catholic moral tradition warn that as pride overtakes us, we risk rejecting the reliance and dependency upon God essential for our salvation. As pride inflates and deceives us, it can isolate us from God and others and could ultimately destroy us.
Antidotes to Pride
Fortunately, pride does not have to have the last word. Scripture and Church teaching urge us to hope rather than despair and remind us Christ came to save us from sin and from our prideful selves; they offer us antidotes to pride — genuine love of others and a mature, enlightened submission to the will of God in a spirit of humility.
The readings for today’s liturgy alert us to the harmful consequences of pride — arrogance, vanity and hypocrisy; they encourage us to humble ourselves before God and give generously of ourselves for others if we are to be saved and exalted in glory for eternity.
The prophet Malachi presents the Lord’s admonition to the priests to walk in His way. Defiant and arrogant, they ignored the Lord; they not only turned aside themselves but caused others to falter as well. Because of what they did, the Lord made the priests contemptible before all the people.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus instructs His listeners to avoid the pride, vanity and hypocrisy of the Scribes and the Pharisees, who preach but do not practice, and impose heavy burdens on others but do nothing to lift those burdens. It seems the motivation for their works is their desire to be seen, recognized and honored.
When Jesus declares “the greatest among you must be your servant” and “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted,” He is promoting an approach to life completely opposed to the self-serving behavior of the Scribes and the Pharisees.
The readings … alert us to the harmful consequences of pride — arrogance, vanity and hypocrisy; they encourage us to humble ourselves before God and give generously of ourselves for others.
Paul in Thessalonians bids his brothers and sisters to remember the nurturing care they received and reminds them he and his fellow workers sacrificed so as not to be a burden to anyone while they proclaimed the Gospel to them. Paul and his companions gave of themselves without any thoughts of personal profit, places of honor or self-glorification. In doing the Lord’s work and giving God the credit, they present an inspiring and powerful lesson in what it means to be humble, to be a believer and an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Jesus and Paul’s accomplishments prove obedience and submission to God’s call and will neither impoverish nor weaken but rather strengthen and enrich people. Disciplined, putting others’ needs first, and praying often to the Father for strength, Jesus and Paul proclaimed the Good News of salvation. In doing so, they changed the lives of and gave hope to countless men and women and affected the course of history; weak people don’t do that!
We shouldn’t view today’s Scriptural challenge to reject pride, arrogance, vanity, and hypocrisy, and imitate the selfless, others-centered lives of Jesus and Paul as a frightening or impossible endeavor. Just by reflecting prayerfully on these texts, we indicate an openness to God’s challenge to commit ourselves to live in loving service to others.
Less preoccupied with ourselves, we realize the goodness, talents and accomplishments of others do not demean our worth or lessen the importance of our lives. Our concern for others fosters positive, healthy relationships, which bring us happiness and enhance the quality of our lives.
Filled with gratitude we’re alive and have so much to give, let us ask God’s grace and wisdom to be humble and swallow our pride.[hr] Readings for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Malachi 1: 14b-2:2b, 8-10
Psalm 131: 1, 2, 3
1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13
Matthew 23:1-12[hr] Father William R. Dulaney is a parochial vicar at St. Gregory the Great parish, Bellerose.