Homily for the readings of Sept. 6, Monday of the XXIII week in OT, year II
Pride is a very dangerous tendency. Today’s readings show us how it can lead to two seemingly opposed extremes, either of which can cause great spiritual damage.
The Christian community of Corinth to which Paul wrote had let pride blind them to serious sin in their very midst. They were so caught up in the progress that they had made that they considered themselves perfect already, when in fact they were allowing behavior that even the pagans – known for dissolution and vice – looked down upon. Hence, they had sort of “hit a wall” on their community’s path to holiness. Paul has to invite them once again to recognize the problems that linger and to strive to make a clean break with sin, to be truly purified as new creatures in Christ, and thus to be well prepared to receive Christ in the Eucharist.
But pride can also lead us to hate and reject virtue. The Pharisees saw themselves as the “cream of the crop”, the most righteous of the people of Israel. They gloried in their image of perfection and in the honor and respect it brought them. Then, Jesus comes along, and shows that their apparent wisdom and irreproachable lives are at least partly a façade. People see the Lord’s true holiness, wisdom, love and authority, manifested in His miracles and His teaching, which is far more compassionate and powerful than the Pharisees’ legal hairsplitting. He even publicly reprimands the Pharisees. Their pride is stung. Some, like Nicodemus, react the right way; they recognize their imperfection and are inspired by Jesus to conversion of heart and to authentic Christian holiness. Others, though, perhaps a vocal minority, prefer to close their eyes to the painful truth about themselves. They seek to destroy Jesus rather than to humble themselves and learn from Him.
So pride, paradoxically, can lead us to ignore sin and ignore or even hate true virtue. That is a path we most certainly want to avoid. The only safe path is to go to the Lord with true humility and ask Him to show us the truth about ourselves, the good and the bad, and to guide us with His grace in the path to true righteousness.
Let us turn our hearts to Him now with the Psalmist: “…let all who take refuge in You be glad and exult forever. Protect them, that you may be the joy of those who trust in your name. Lead me in your justice, Lord.”