THE PHARISEE AND THE TAX
Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J
Table of Contents
“He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. ‘Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and I pay tithes on my whole income. But the tax collector 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.’ I tell you the latter went home justified not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’” (Luke 18:9-14)
Humility is one of the virtues most characteristic of our Lord. It is the only virtue that he explicitly said that we should learn of Him. “Learn of me that I am meek and humble of heart.” Humility is also one of the most misunderstood and least appreciated of the virtues. It is not the virtue of the weak. It is the virtue of the strong.
Humility is not an inferiority complex, a negative self image, a cringing, fawning obsequiousness. It is not the denial of the talents I have. That would be a lie, and a lie can never be a virtue. It is a sin. It doesn’t mean that we hide our talents. The Lord warned us in the parable of the talents that if we hide them we lose them. Humility instead of suppressing our actions inspires us to do and attempt great things because we are only instruments in the hand of God. We can do anything he wants us to do. As Mary said in her Magnificat, “He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.”
And humility does not mean that we let people run over us. That would not be good for them and it surely wouldn’t be good for us. Justice is the substratum, the foundation, of love. Fraternal correction is also an essential part of love. Jesus was simple as a dove in life-style and doctrine, meek and humble of heart but also thick skinned, tough as nails and wise as a serpent. He knew what was in man, and was no respecter of persons. He called a spade a spade and went right to the heart of the matter.
Humility is truth. It is true that I am a feeble, fickle, fallible, sinful human being. But it is also true that I am gifted, graced, unique and indispensable. I am an unrepeatable gift of God. I have this inner core goodness that nothing can destroy. And in spite of all my physical warts, psychological quirks and spiritual infidelities God loves me. And He loves me unconditionally with a love I cannot earn, merit or ever be worthy of.
Humility is truth. And the truth is: I am “We.” And “We” is mostly Thee. This is an expression of the imminance of God, of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity. The truth is that God is the ground of my being. Without God I would not be. “In him we live and move and have our being.” The absolutely self-autonomous self is the “false self” that exists only in my imagination.
“Learn of me that I am meek and humble of heart and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOUL.” It is the proud who are restless. They are always in competition, in the rat-race. They always have to be #1. They value themselves according to their possessions, productivity and success. They are always having to prove themselves. Eastern Airlines’ motto was that they had to earn their wings every day. Evidently, they didn’t because they are no longer flying.
We don’t have to prove anything to God. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He loves us not because of what we are but because of WHO he is. All we have to do is to drop our masks, come down off the pedestal and just be me. And be happy to be me. And we will find rest for our soul, and give great praise and glory to God.
The way to humility
is through humiliations. Today when you are humiliated, and you will be,
maybe two or three times, instead of being upset and disturbed, be glad
and rejoice because you are on your way to humility where you will find
peace and rest for your soul. And He who is mighty can do great things
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