THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
18 August 2019
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Pride is a deadly disease in our souls. Inflammation and swelling in our bodies are very dangerous to our physical health. Pride is very similar in our souls. To aid our bodies we apply remedies to reduce and eliminate inflammation as well as whatever may be causing it. We must learn to do the same in our spiritual lives.
The glutton gorges himself with food or drink and often causes all manner of illness. His body cannot deal with the surfeiting and swells and expands leaving him weak and incapacitated. The avaricious man swells with his possessions and becomes paralyzed by them. He makes himself unable to move or advance because he will let go of nothing, nor will he leave anything behind. He will accumulate so much that he imprisons himself through them.
We could continue with every vice conceivable and show that it is a kind of spiritual disease causing infection, swelling, incapacitation, and ultimately death. At the head of all these vices, we find the sin of pride.
Our first parents were tempted by the serpent with the vain hope of being like God. In swelling their ambitious and vain pride they became sick and subject to death. Instead of becoming like God they became like devils. Pride promises increase, advancement and growth, there is swelling, infection, and disease, but this brings forth loss, destruction, and death. The devils promise what they do not have to give, but they do give what is theirs disease, death, and loss of all that is good.
The man in today's Gospel had done many good things, but these were all brought to nothing because of his pride. Like a terrible infection that spreads throughout the body, it swells and softens all that was once solid, firm and strong. An infection that is not stopped soon spreads and consumes everything. In the same manner, this man's pride destroyed any good that he had previously done.
Good works are necessary for us. Faith without works is dead. However, good works infected with pride are rendered useless. Jesus would have us do our good works in secret rather than before men and seek our reward from God rather than from men. If we seek the praise of men in our works, then we have no reward to expect from God. We have labored for men, not for God. It is pride that seeks the approval of men, and then it is pride that imagines himself far above the very men who have given him their approval. Little does the vice of pride understand the empty logic that he is now infected with. If the men giving him approval are far beneath himself, even as dust beneath his feet, then their approval is, likewise nothing. The man's pride is built up upon nothing.
What is the cure for this illness called pride? We find the cure as well as the preventive in the opposing virtue humility. When we find anything good within us, the humble truth is that this goodness has been given to us by God. We have nothing to boast about. All the honor, glory and praise belong to God alone. We soon understand that all that is evil in us is our own doing. In understanding this we humbly present ourselves before God as beggars seeking pardon and forgiveness. This is the truth. In truth there is humility. Pride is a lie. Pride is a kind of theft of the praise, honor, and glory that belongs to God. Humility is a return or recognition of what properly belongs to God as well as what properly belongs to ourselves. In this God is pleased because it is just and true. Hence, we see that the proud man was not justified, but the humble sinner was.
All the Pharisee's good works were rendered useless and brought down to nothing by the sin of pride. The Publican's lack of good works was filled up and rendered pleasing by the virtue of humility. If we will only combine our good works with true humility God will lift us up ever higher. There is truly no limit to how high we may rise ever drawing nearer to God if we will only continue in the grace and virtue of humility. The intimacy that God desires to have with us is always subject to increase and advancement. The key for us is in humility. The enemy of our souls is the disease of pride.
St. Basil instructs us as follows: "In your words let there be no empty pretense, in your singing no excessive sweetness, in conversation be not ponderous or overbearing. In everything refrain from seeking to appear important. Be a help to your friends, kind to the ones who live with you, gentle to your servant, patient with those who are troublesome, loving towards the lowly, comforting to those in trouble, visiting those in affliction, never despising anyone, gracious in friendship, cheerful in answering others, courteous, approachable to everyone, never speaking your own praises, nor getting others to speak them, never taking part in unbecoming conversation, and concealing where you may whatever gifts you possess."
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