Theme: PRIDE IS THE GREATEST SIN; HUMILITY IS THE GREATEST VIRTUE
- Malachi 1:14-2:2. 8-10
- Psalm 130 (131)
- Mt 23:1-12
Today is the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, or 31st Sunday of the Liturgical Year A. The readings today tell us that pride is the greatest sin and humility is the greatest virtue!
The first reading from the prophet Malachi tells us of the sins of the priests! The priests do not keep the law, and the priests give wrong instructions on the law to the people! The first reading also tells us of the sins of the people! The people marry foreigners and divorce their Jewish wives! (v.10)
Again, the gospel today tells us of the sins of the religious leaders! The gospel tells us of the sins of the Scribes and Pharisees! The gospel tells us that the Scribes (Lawyers) and Pharisees do not practice what they preach!
They are also hypocrites! They tie small boxes containing the Law on their foreheads and left forearms; they wear tassels at the fringe of their garments to remind themselves to keep the commandments; they take the seats of honor at banquets; they take the front seats at the synagogues; they are being greeted obsequiously (slavishly); and they are being called Rabbi, Master, Father, and Teacher! (CSB/NAB)
But their greatest sin is the sin of pride! That is why I began this homily by saying that pride is the greatest sin and humility is the greatest virtue! That is why the gospel ends with Jesus saying, “Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”! (Mt 23:12)
A parallel verse is found in “Lk 18:14”! In fact Luke 18:9-14 is on pride and humility! “Luke 18:9-14” tells us that a Pharisee and a tax collector went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee said this prayer to himself, ‘I thank you God I am not like the rest of men, greedy, unjust, adulterous, particularly, I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I give tithes (10%) on all that I earn.’! The tax collector on the other hand said this prayer, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”! Jesus says in the gospel that the tax collector was justified, but the Pharisee was not justified!
The tax collector was justified not because he was good and holy, but because he was humble! The Pharisee was not justified not because he was bad and sinful, but because he was proud! The Pharisee was good and holy – at least compared to the tax collector – but the tax collector was humble! The tax collector was justified, but the Pharisee was not justified!
It is important to remember that Satan himself fell because of pride! Satan wanted to be like God; to be equal to God! In “1 Timothy 3:6” we read, “The elder-in-charge should not be a new convert, in case pride should turn his head and he incur the same condemnation as the devil”!
Again, we read in “Isaiah 14:12-15”, “‘How did you come to fall from the heavens, Daystar, son of Dawn? How did you come to be thrown to the ground, conqueror of nations? You who used to think to yourself: I shall scale the heavens; higher than the stars of God I shall set my throne. I shall sit on the Mount of Assembly far away to the north. I shall climb high above the clouds, I shall rival the Most High.’ Now you have been flung down to Sheol, into the depths of the abyss!”! (NJB)
The Church Fathers identified the fall of the Morning Star (Vulg. ‘Lucifer’) with that of the prince of the demons (Satan)! (NJB/CSB)
Adam and Eve fell from grace also because of pride! Satan fell because of pride and that is why his temptation to Adam and Eve is also on pride! In Genesis 3: 4-5, we read, “Then the snake said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good from evil.’”!
Satan fell because of pride; Adam and Eve fell also because of pride; and the Scribes and Pharisees fell also because of pride! But more importantly, the tax collector was justified, raised up and exalted because of humility!
Humility is not belittling oneself, but humility is accepting and confessing the honest truth of oneself! And the honest truth of oneself is that I am a sinner, I cannot save myself, and more importantly, I believe only God can save me! Humility is trusting in God for my salvation!
Thus the responsorial psalm of today (Psalm 130 (131); a psalm of humble childlike trust in God: “O Lord, my heart is not proud nor haughty my eyes. I have not gone after things too great nor marvels beyond me. Truly I have set my soul in silence and peace. A weaned child on its mother’s breast, even so is my soul. O Israel, hope in the Lord both now and for ever.”!
Today we celebrate this Eucharist in humility! We began this Eucharist by humbly acknowledging our sins, and more importantly, with faith and trust in God, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and our Risen Lord will give us His Holy Spirit to justify us and through us to justify the whole world! This is the Good News! A Happy, Holy and Blessed week to all of you! Sunday, the day of the Sun, the first day of the week, the day of the Resurrection, blesses all the days of the week!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.