Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Humility is boasting of God's blessings

Thirtieth Ordinary Sunday Year C

One of the sins we find hardest to confess is the sin of pride? We are ready to confess our other sins- anger, unforgiveness, lying, beating our children, scolding others – but find it hard to confess our pride. Pride has a way of hiding itself. We hide many things from others because we think that if they came to know about it, they would no longer respect us or like us. That’s pride. Pride means that we do not want to lose face. So we lie, we exaggerate, we make fun of others, we become jealous of others, we criticize others.

I think that many of us would not want to pray like the Pharisee in today’s gospel. So we often criticize our own achievements and try to humble ourselves before others. We will say things like: “No, I’m not clever. Actually I am very stupid.” Or when others praise us, we will try and say things like: “no it was just luck.” We try to be polite. When we serve food that we have cooked to others, we will often say that it is common and simple food although we may have spent the whole morning and afternoon trying to make the most delicious dish to impress our friends. Very often our own self-criticism is an attempt at soliciting greater praises from others. Rather than true humility, every time when we brush off a compliment from someone else, it is an indication of our pride. We actually want them to praise us more.

What is true humility? It isn’t self-criticism, as I had explained. True humility is the ability to recognize both my weaknesses and my strengths. True humility is about knowing oneself. True humility is recognizing that we are nothing without God and that all that we have received comes from God alone. When we criticize ourselves we are criticizing God –we are saying that He has made a mistake with us. That’s not humility but pride! A truly humble person is able to receive compliments and recognize his own strength because he knows that this is a gift from God.

In the second reading, St. Paul appears to be boasting about himself when he says: “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith …” But St. Paul is not blowing his own trumpet. He is actually giving praise to God. He knows that he would not be able to do it alone. He knows that he is able to do all these things only with the power of God. If we read the second part of the second reading, we will see this. He writes: “But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear … The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever.”

That’s true humility. To be able to speak of all the blessings that we have received from God and give him glory. We are not praising our own achievements when we speak of them. We are not boasting when we speak about how God has blessed us. Rather, it is God who is praised and glorified. Without God nothing is possible. We need to give testimony to God’s blessings. False humility hides the glory of God. False humility is actually pride that seeks praises for oneself.

In today’s mass, let us echo the voice of tax collector who recognized his sinfulness and limitations but yet recognized the mercy and power of God to forgive him his sins. For the Lord will indeed listen to the prayer of the truly humble man.

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