Pride vs. Humility

Most people have the innate tendency to boast of themselves, whether about their wealth, position in society, intelligence, career, or fame. This is one of the seven basic character flaws or ‘dark’ personality traits. There are several reasons for this. However, the most common cause is that it is a coping mechanism in people with a strong fear of showing extraordinary vulnerability. In these cases, arrogance can become a defining pattern. They possess the tendency of trying to manipulate others’ perceptions — to ensure that they get approval and be spared of criticism.

There are also those who, despite their status in life, remain humble and chose to be low-key. One such couple is my friend Lando and Linda. We’ve been close friends for more than twenty years now and all these time, even if they are extremely wealthy, they have preferred to stay out of the limelight, in fact they shunned away inclusion in a listing of the country’s wealthiest families. And I know they are. While we are nothing compared to their state in life, they have chosen to keep me and my wife as close friends — a testament of how they value their relationships. In fact, they invite me to their speaking engagements, or consult me when they need advice. I look on these gestures as symbols of true friendship and deep humility. To this day, we still maintain and keep this intimacy amidst the busy nature and clutter of our lives.

And yet, we also have acquaintances who have become arrogant after thinking they have become powerful and can do without God in their lives.

In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, our Lord tells of two contrasting personalities on pride and humility. The Pharisee had his life in what is like nowadays as ‘Excel format’: wonderfully in order, carefully planned, such that he thought his objective of going to Heaven was ensured by the way he lead his life. He surmised that since he did that, he had felt justified in considering himself above others who didn’t have that same level of control. He saw himself as morally superior to the tax collector.

Just like his present day counterparts, the tax collector’s job meant that he was often stereotyped as corrupt and thus subject to ridicule. He has encountered all kinds of people in society, and was more familiar with the intricacies and clutter of life than the Pharisee. It also meant he knew himself too well, and in humility, he was able to see God’s mercy and compassion.

Our Lord warns against self-righteousness as a threat to one’s character and soul. The thinking that one is in ‘control’ now becomes the root of the problem. Instead of recognizing that everything still depends on God, one can now look at himself as superior and therefore having difficulties in inviting God into his life. Trusting God becomes hard, failing to remember that we have an infinitely loving and merciful God who only means the best for us.

Let us therefore pray to the Lord, that we may be granted the discernment to acknowledge our lowliness in front of God, and that we may be able to see the difference between the Pharisee and the tax collector. Unlike the Pharisee, may we not forget and recognize that we need God all the more.

‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ (Lk. 18: 13b)

Persistence in Prayer

The woman’s persistence paid off, as the unjust judge gave in to her repeated requests. She was tenacious in her pleas and had become a nuisance. While it took a lot of effort on the widow, the judge’s response is one that was borne out of his own selfishness and concern for safety. In contrast, we don’t have to wear out God as our prayers are heard even before we mention these to Him. ‘I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ (Lk. 18: 8)

We often misunderstand this, that God will answer our prayers very quickly. When there seems to be a delay in God’s response, we find it difficult to accept why there seems to be no answer forthcoming.

Being patient and persistent in prayer are expressions of faith. Thus, when we start to wear out, we should be cautious as it may already be selfishness creeping in on us, such that we may even be putting God in a box and trying to impose our own will on Him. When we do this, we are putting our own limited view of the situation on God, who is omnipotent and omniscient. We forget that He understands all the issues infinitely more deeply than we can ever imagine. In fact, the answer we have in mind may not even be the best solution to our supplications!

Our prayer should therefore be an expression of our faith in Him. When we pray, we should allow His power to dictate the solution and the timing. We should be humble enough to surrender what we want in order to allow God to enter more deeply into our lives.

‘Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.’ (Ps. 121: 2)

Being Grateful to the Lord

This Sunday’s readings tell stories of people undergoing crisis in their lives. Naaman, the army commander of the King of Aram, was a leper. Interestingly, one of those that the Arameans had captured from Israel became the servant of Naaman’s wife who suggested that her master see and present himself to the prophet Elisha in Samaria. When Naaman told the King of Aram about this, the king told him to go. Upon reaching Elisha’s place, the prophet told him to ‘Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.’ (2 Kgs. 5: 10). Naaman responded, ‘What, you expect me to do that?’ He was prevailed by his servants to follow the prophet’s prescription. Reluctantly obeyed, and said to himself, ‘What have I to lose?’ and he washed himself in the Jordan seven times and was healed. ‘His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.’ (2 Kgs. 5: 14b)

In the Gospel, Our Lord met ten lepers as he was passing through Samaria and Galilee on the journey to Jerusalem. They shouted to Him, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And only one of them, a Samaritan; realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The nine didn’t return to thank the Lord.

All of us have to go through our own difficulties in life, it can be an affliction like cancer; or through constant struggle where we just can’t seem to catch the solution. It can also be losing someone close to us where the heartache seemed endless. There are also times when we encounter failures that simply don’t make sense. “Why would God let this happen to me?” So many things in this world don’t seem to make sense. Which makes the reasonable proposition to be like Naaman, doubting at first. In situations like these, we don’t have anyone to turn to except God. In these darkest moments, the only real recourse is to trust the Lord, who will bring us through. When our loved ones are passing through the same trials, what we can do is show them that the Lord’s grace will deliver them through, amidst the shroud of darkness in their lives. We ask Him to give us the strength, and to use our struggles to make us stronger and in the process gain more wisdom.

Even when we aren’t faithful, God is always faithful. In times where we fail Him, we simply believe and trust. This is the world we live in. But Christ comes to us in these moments, and helps us to see He is in control. We shouldn’t lose the opportunity to see God in these. Just like the one who is grateful, who realized that he wasn’t only healed, but that he has encountered the Majesty of God in the process! The worst thing we can do is to be like the other nine, who were ungrateful and didn’t even realize that they encountered God. They weren’t able to make sense of their experience, and they missed the true encounter with God.

Needless to say, the readings today also teach us that with humility and expectant faith, we should all the more be grateful to the Lord for helping us through our ‘leprosy’ experiences. We pray for the wisdom of recognizing Him amidst our hopelessness and difficulties.

Faith is Doing, Not Feeling

Many times in our life journey we’ve felt alone, helpless, and thought God is very far away. In those moments, we felt the desperation, and thought of giving up on our faith. In the First Reading, the people through the Prophet Habakkuk gave a desperate prayer for help, asking God, ‘How long, O LORD? I cry for help but you do not listen!’ God’s response is very re-assuring then, as it is now, ‘For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late’. (Hab. 1:2-3, 2:2-4)

St. Teresa of Calcutta modelled this persevering faith day by day throughout her life. Her day starts in communion with Jesus in the Eucharist and then went out, rosary in hand, to find and serve Him in ‘the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for.’ Unknown to many, this great woman also experienced a deep, painful and abiding feeling of being separated from God, even rejected by Him, along with an ‘ever-increasing longing for His love.’ She called her inner experience, ‘the darkness.’ While she was feeling desperate and lonely, Mother Teresa continued her work for the poor, undisturbed by the feeling of ‘darkness’ she was experiencing. This experience led her into an ever more profound union with God. (

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about the servant doing his duty after ‘plowing or tending sheep in the field’. The Lord reminds us that discipleship has obligations. It demands our obedience. St. Paul’s tells in his Letter to Timothy to ‘… bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.’

Let our feelings drive us more to pursue what we are tasked to accomplish for God. Let us remember that ‘God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.’ (2 Tim. 1: 7)

Faith then is not about feeling, it is about doing.

‘If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.’ (Ps. 95: 7)

Be Wary of Becoming Complacent!

What is striking in today’s Gospel is that Jesus is silent on the other details of the rich man’s life. He may have been a good and honest man, that we don’t know; Jesus didn’t include this in the parable. From the reading, we can conclude that he loved his brothers but he was indifferent to Lazarus. He lived in luxury ‘… dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day’, and went to hell after he died, while Lazarus the frail beggar lived in misery ‘…covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table’, and went to Heaven. (Lk. 16: 19-31)

Today’s Gospel is a continuation of last Sunday’s readings. We are again reminded of being good stewards of the wealth entrusted to us. If we own lands, we have legal rights in the eyes of the law. However, God has designed it differently: we are just stewards of His property. This was the issue with the rich man; He was just God’s caretaker. What he failed to appreciate is the fact that Lazarus was God’s face, a person who deserved to be treated better. But the rich man saw instead a ragged and sickly man.

In the first reading, the Prophet Amos tells of the fate of God’s people who are ‘complacent,’ ‘stretched comfortably on their couches,’ ‘devise their own accompaniment,’ and ‘anoint themselves with the best oils.’ As we read these words, let us reflect: are we not like them? Let us be wary, as we might be doomed similarly, as they ‘shall be the first to go into exile, and their wanton revelry shall be done away with.’ (Am. 6:7)

God assures of His compassion and mercy on the person who ‘who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry.’ (Ps.146: 7) In the second reading, St. Paul wrote Timothy: ‘But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called…’ (1 Tim. 6: 12)

In the world today, we find similar concerns on people becoming complacent; complacent in their homes, in their communities, and in their faith. Many times too, people become complacent as Catholics. There was a time when me and my wife were new into our ministry in the Couples for Christ, when a household evening competed with the basketball game of my favorite team. That time we have to make that conscious decision that the Lord’s business should prevail over our other interests. We have to be cautious when we start to tailor-fit our service to God to our own liking. Without our knowing we can suddenly ignore and become indifferent. We neglect our faith. We forget the basic tenet of sharing to the less fortunate. We become comfortable, we get proud.

Let us pray that we may be granted the grace to be Jesus Christ’ face, hands and feet to others so that we may be joining Him at the other side of the ‘great chasm’, where Abraham and Lazarus are.

‘Though our Lord Jesus Christ was rich, He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich’. (2 Cor. 8: 9)


Our lives are so rich, they can not be summarized into a single statement. Each of us is a brother or a sister to a sibling, a lover to a partner or a husband to a wife, a colleague in a professional endeavor, a believer of faith, a member of a sociology or civic organization. We try to respond to each one as the priority arises. We don’t ignore a certain area of our life because we are busy with the other. Balance is attending to various concerns, knowing fully well that life is not calling us to give equal attention to everything.

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