“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)
I guess you may have heard the story of the woman who told her parish priest that she was going to quit her membership of the Church. The priest felt very concerned and asked her the reason for her rash decision. The woman then went on to narrate all the evils that the church members were doing. She had something bad to say about everyone. Not even the priest was spared. She concluded by saying: “I don’t think I can continue worshipping God in this filthy place.”
“Before you go, there is something I would like you to do for me,” said the priest. The priest then gave her a glass cup filled with water saying: “Take the glass cup and walk to the sanctuary and back here. Do not let a single drop of water spill from this glass.” She took the glass cup, held it gently with her two hands, and walked up to the sanctuary and back.
When she returned to the priest, he congratulated her for not spilling a single drop, then he asked her: “While you were walking with this glass cup, did you notice anyone gossiping, not properly dressed, reading a newspaper, pressing their phones inside the church and so on?” She said: “No, Father. How could I have noticed when I was trying not to spill the water?”
The priest then said: “Consider this cup to be Christ. When you come to church, let your attention be on Christ and not on your fellow Christians” Like this woman, a lot of us Christians have become puffed up with pride because we believe we are better than everyone else. Some even go as far as narrating the sins of others during the sacrament of penance while maintaining that they themselves are sinless. As much as we wish the Church was a gathering only of saints, we must accept the reality that the church is also a hospital where the sick and wounded come in seeking healing.
In today’s Gospel passage, Luke tells us that Jesus told a “parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others.” (Luke 18:9) One of the symptoms of pride is trusting in ourselves rather than in God, forgetting that our righteousness is a product of grace, not personal efforts. The Pharisee was so puffed up by pride that he ended up praying to himself; that is to say: his prayer did not reach God’s ears since it was merely a boast.
Pride not only prevents our prayer from rising to heaven, it also attracts the wrath of God. In Jeremiah 50:31-32, we read: “Behold, I am against you, O proud one, says the Lord God of hosts; for your day has come, the time when I will punish you. The proud one shall stumble and fall, with none to raise him up, and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it will devour all that is round about him.”
Meanwhile, the tax collector who didn’t even lift his eyes to heaven went home justified. Jesus concluded the parable saying: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14). Both St. James and St. Peter remind us: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 & 1 Peter 5:5).
In conclusion, St. Paul teaches us: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to examine my conscience; to lift others up rather than look down on them. Amen.
Bible Study: Hosea 5:15-6:6, Ps. 51:3-4,18-21, Luke 18:9-14).
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu