Who Do You Think You Are?

Sunday September 1st 2019  22nd Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

The tie in between today’s readings: Saving grace or saving face?

Psalm 68:3-10, Sirach 3:17-29, Hebrews 12:18-24, Luke 14:7-14

     Today’s Mass Prep compares pride and humility. Let me start off by saying that pride isn’t a bad thing if it’s kept within the confines of yourself. There is nothing wrong with taking pride in that fine birdhouse in your garden that you built from scratch and scrap wood. Pride is a conscious self-evaluation that will help spur you on to excel in other life challenges. Humility by contrast is practically unconscious. Humility looks totally outwards.  It sees an opportunity to help others and meets it for no other reason than it needed to be done and doesn’t give it another thought. Humility is the virtue that is recognized by others in you. In fact, it spoils and becomes hubris when you see it in yourself. You don’t go to bed and say, “My, I was particularly humble today!”  How could anyone who wrote a book: Humility and How I’ve Attained It, ever be taken seriously? The bad pride, which we will explore, is like humility in reverse. Although it can easily be recognized by others, the proud person is strangely unconscious of it in himself.  He self-elevates or puts others down with his slanted perspectives, which he believes to be realistic. This is boorish enough when you have to deal with these jerks at work or parties, but it goes deeper. This kind of pride is the greatest destructive illusion of our souls.

     When it comes to pride vs. humility, on face value, Jesus’ banquet etiquette advice in our reading today in Luke 14: 7-14 falls way short! After all, what would feed a proud person’s ego more than having to be called up front to a place of honor in a crowded room while hanging in the back with the little people? The key to Luke 14 is found in a parallel parable in Luke 18:9-14, The Pharisee and the Tax Collector and their identical conclusions: Those that exalt themselves will be humbled and those that humble themselves will be exalted. While the story of the banquet ends up with the proud person getting his feelings hurt and could be referring to heavenly status since, after all, he still got to stay at the party; the other story is more dramatic in that the Pharisee never even got past the door to get in.  The bad endings happen because both of these stories feature clueless proud individuals, acting on their assumptions of self sufficiency, self importance, and self exaltation.  God has a problem with that.

     In the Our Father, Jesus prays, “Thy will be done.” There was a time when God’s will was the only will and then Lucifer, in his pride, challenged that scenario in his rebellion. This started the “Whose will be done?” war, which spread to the earth with the Fall of Adam and Eve and continues to this day. We are soldiers in this war on one side or the other. God wants us to recognize His perfect will and obey Him, trusting that Father knows best for your life. The theme in our Psalm 68 reading is that there are blessings in following God’s lead. The proud go their own way with a deep down subconscious belief that their lives would be better if they disobey God. So after you ignore the best God has for you, what does the, “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want.” approach to living get you?

Luke 14

disgrace, loss of reward at the resurrection.

Sirach 3

futile strivings, conceits, imaginations that lead astray, meddling, foolish actions

a stubborn heart, no repentance, multiplication of sins, many hurts, a bad ending

dangerous chances, incurable afflictions.

Psalm 68:6

Life in a wilderness

From our human perspective, these bad things don’t always happen and a lot of the rebelliously proud do quite well, while the humble followers of Christ suffer. First off, these are tendencies, truisms and proverbs that point to a common ending for those that go their own way and it may take time or even generations for the chickens to come home to roost. More importantly, part of God’s job description is judging our lives, for the proud, that will be the really scary part.

     In our reading in Hebrews12:18-24, there are two mountains. One is Mount Sinai. This is the mountain of God’s Law where each proud person will stand at court and explain to the Almighty how they measured up and are worthy to enter His heaven. They will argue that they went to church, prayed, and put in their time of service for God. They will tell Him, from their point of view, how they tried to keep the Ten Commandments, helped their neighbors, and were good spouses and parents. They will bring out their scale of goodness and say that 51% good vs. 49% not so much is enough to squeeze through the pearly gates. They will proclaim their righteousness by comparing themselves to Hitler, Stalin and that guy down the street who abandoned his family. The embezzler will be proud that he was never a murderer. The murderer will boast that he was never a child molester. The child molester will compare himself to the terrorist. The terrorist will argue the validity of his cause. Around and around it will go each applying standards against each other and their vainly constructed philosophies to justify the virtues of their lives. Everyone will fail because the standard of comparison is not between people, but against God’s perfect moral Law and no one measures up against that.

Then God will ask what they thought about Jesus His Son. Some will say that He set a good example. Then God will say, “He served others. Why didn’t you follow Him?” Some will say that He was a good teacher. Then God will ask, “He said turn the other cheek. Why didn’t you listen?” Some will say that He was their Savior. He will reply, “LIAR! If He really had been you’re Savior you would have been pleading His sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sins and claiming His righteousness instead of justifying your own. My Son came for the tax collectors. Those people who know they are unworthy, seek forgiveness, and understand that salvation is a gift. They are at this very moment on My other mountain, Mount Zion, My Holy Mountain of grace, with the angels and My Son. I offered you My Son, My Way, My Truth, My Life, but you were all too proud, too caught up in yourselves to receive Him. You thought that you could come to Me on your own terms. You despised My grace by your pride. You people are the Pharisees.  Now go and build a world with those of your own kind, those people who you thought that you were better than.”

     The humble submit to the Bible’s teachings and take their sin seriously. They seek forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus. They see any goodness in themselves as a gift of God’s grace in their lives. Their hope of heaven is by the merits of Christ. The proud live by their own rules. They excuse their faults and diminish their sins consequences. They believe heaven can be earned by their own efforts and deep down sincerely think that they are good enough. If Jesus is in the picture at all, He is an aid along the way. The question is: of these two people, who do you think you are? Are you into saving grace or saving face?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s