As I was watching the basketball game on cable TV, the announcers were talking about the PBA’s five-time (and consecutive years) MVP, who they said, is still humble, despite his achievements. They said, “Up to now, he doesn’t brag, he is so humble and is always wishing the best for other players.” As a consequence, everybody looks up to him and is always a big vote-getter amongst his peers whenever the selection of the best in the conference or in the season is needed.
In today’s Gospel (Lk. 18: 9-14), the Lord told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee was a portrait of self-righteousness and arrogance; imagine bragging to God about himself while praying in the temple. He was literally “counting off” the reasons why he is up above the rest of humanity. On the other hand, the tax collector was “very repentant, stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”
There are many who fell victim to this type of self-righteousness, some even serving in the various church communities. This is dangerous because imagine serving in ministry and yet losing to this infirmity of the spirit. When people aren’t grounded on their service and their faith, they can become like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. That’s why the Lord reminds us,
“…whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus himself showed us the example of perfect humility: he suffered torture, shame and mockery, and eventually died on the Cross for our sins. Imagine the Son of God bearing that kind of suffering and death? That’s simply because he wants to redeem the world from our sins. Such great love for us, right?
The danger of self-righteousness bordering on arrogance and pride can indeed be lethal. It is something all of us have to be wary about. When our egos are touched, it is easy to fall into the ditch of self-righteousness. If one isn’t careful and prayerful, material wealth and position in society can cloud one’s judgment and make him a natural prey to pride and self-righteousness. Therefore, one needs regular prayer and self-reflection to keep him focused on the Lord. When one’s attention is on the Lord, one starts to lose paying so much attention to how he is looked up by society and starts serving others.
The themes of the past Sundays talk about honesty, cautiousness, faith, gratitude, and perseverance. This time, we are reminded to be and to remain humble in submission to God’s will for our lives.
Let us keep the focus on Him as our Lord and Master who knows the best for us. When we are tired, tempted and challenged, let us be consoled by St. Paul (2 Tm. 4: 6-8, 16-18) who, when sensing that the “time of departure is at hand”, claims the crown of righteousness from the Lord, the “just” judge. St. Paul knew he has suffered, has finished the race, and have kept the faith.
May we be able to say the same when our time comes, just like St. Paul.
“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, and entrusting to us the message of salvation.” (2 Cor. 5: 19)