Bottom line: Jesus teaches how to overcome pride: by looking for a way to praise even our opponents - and by practical humility.
Recently I heard some good news about St. Mary of the Valley: Of the 170 plus parishes of our archdiocese in terms of marriages we are number five. Considering we are actually smaller than the average parish that's pretty good. Of course when I heard we are number five, I thought to myself, "I'd like to be number one!"
This does relate to the theme of my homily but before stating the theme, let's look at today's Gospel. Jesus, you remember, is on the road to Jerusalem. He meets a cast of characters and spends time teaching. Today a scholar of the law - a scribe - approaches Jesus. In the Gospels scribes are uniformly negative. Why? Well, their learning rather than bringing them close to God and the people, they use their knowledge to look down on others. Remember the definition of pride last week: "that smug feeling of superiority, thinking that other people are stupid in comparison to me."
Now, I was being a little playful about wanting to be number one in marriages, but I will admit there's plenty of pride in me. I can start obsessing on how I'm doing in relation to other priests. Instead of simply doing my job best I can and leaving the rest to the Lord, I feel this weird sense of competition.
We see something similar in relation to money. We want money to take care of basic needs and to help others. Money, however, can become a source of superiority. Back in the 1940's C.S. Lewis wrote: "What is it that makes a man with $10,000 a year anxious to get $20,000 a year? It is not the greed for more pleasure. $10,000 will give all the luxuries that any man can really enjoy. It is Pride - the wish to be richer than some other rich man, and (still more) the wish for power."Ten thousand could buy a lot more in 1940 than today so you get the idea.
It's true that pride can motivate a person to work hard, strive for excellence and benefit others. Still pride can become destructive. C.S. Lewis.sums it up this way: "each person's pride is in competition with every one else's pride." Pride often leads to put downs, bullying and even violence.
In today's Gospel the scholar of the law - the scribe - embodies pride. He studied hard, for sure, and he has knowledge which could greatly help others. Instead he uses his knowledge to show himself superior, more clever than anyone else - including Jesus.
Big mistake. Jesus has no need to prove anything so to the scribe's question, Jesus responds with a question: You ask what to do to inherit life, well, tell me, what is written in the law? The scribe quotes the commands about love: love of God and love of neighbor. When Jesus tells him then to do it, the scribe wants to justify himself. So he asks, who is my neighbor?
Here's where it gets interesting. Jesus offers a parable for overcoming pride. He tells about a man journeying from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jerusalem, Mount Zion, is the high point, Jericho the low point, over 3000 feet lower than Jerusalem. It would be like the descent from Snoqualmie Pass to Seattle. In the Bible Jericho represents the world, the fallen world. On that road to Jericho robbers attack the unfortunate man. They steal his possession including all his clothes. They beat him so badly he appears dead.
A priest and levite come by. Like the scribe they know the law. They can talk about love of neighbor. Yet they are reluctant to investigate if the man is dead or not. Besides they have important things to do. They may have plans to reform their nation.
Then comes a Samaritan. Remember Jesus had just passed through Samaria. He had personally felt the hostility between Samaritans and Jews. To speak favorably about a Samaritan would be like a Democrat praising a Republican - or vice versa. Jesus portrays the Samaritan as someone with practical humility. To care for the unfortunate man, the Samaritan uses his own resources: oil, wine and mule. He uses his own money and time. He gets help from others - in this case the innkeeper. And he promises follow up. That's practical humility. Pride talks; humility walks. Someone said that Leo Moore didn't did just talk the talk, he walked the walk. Pride talks, humility walks.
Now, we're not done with pride. Next week we will see two sisters, both beautiful and good. Jesus, however, will gently chide one of the sisters for getting too involved in herself and what she is doing - rather than see the big picture.
For today I ask you take this home: The word pride can have a good sense: we can take pride in others by genuinely admiring them. Still we must recognize that pride in the sense of smug superiority can do damage. It sets people against each other. Jesus teaches how to overcome pride: by looking for a way to praise even our opponents - and by practical humility. That means sharing resources and time, by getting others involved and following up. To put it simply: Pride talks, humility walks. Amen.
The True Compassion of a Disciple - Example of St. Edith Stein (Audio version of homily for 15th Sunday, Cycle C - 2016)
From Archives (Homilies for Fifteenth Sunday, Year C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru