A sort of homily for Proper 17, Year C
Sirach 10:12-18. Psalm 112. Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16. Luke 14:1, 7-14
Being proud of someone else is one sort of pride. This can be a selfless pride. I am proud of my children. I hope this is selfless. Then there is being proud, standing over, putting oneself above. We talk about the ‘proud flesh’ of a healing wound. In the healing process, granulation tissue ‘stands proud’ of surrounding tissue and gradually forms a scar. Scar tissue is functionally useless.
You might say that people who are proud in this sense are functionally useless. Hubris: overweening pride, pride before a fall. Hubris kills.
A Pharisee and a tax-gatherer prayed in the temple. The Pharisee prayed, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other men.’ The tax-gatherer said, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’
It’s tempting to say ‘Lord, thank you that I’m not like that Pharisee.’
When the Titanic set sail, someone reportedly said ‘Even God couldn’t sink this ship.’
Do you long for attention? Do you make a scene? Are you needy and clingy? Have you learnt to look pathetic?
Are you a begrudger? ‘They didn’t deserve that!’ ‘That’s not fair!’ ‘I could do better than them.’ Maybe you could, but you don’t!
Do you always have to win? Some people even cheat at Scrabble.
Do you tell porkies? Do you tell lies to make yourself look bigger than you are, or to belittle someone else? It’s all pride.
Do you refuse to admit it when you’re wrong? And when you’re caught, do you try to wriggle out of it? You blame something else, bring on the waterworks, blame the drink, or the tiredness or whatever?
Do you pick fights? Is this because you stand up to bullies? Or is it because you are a bully and must win?
Do you push in when you’re in a queue: ‘I’m very important, I have important things to do. The rest of you can wait.’
Do you get upset when people don’t recognize your worth?
Do you believe that dreadful advert where the lady says ‘Because I’m worth it’? No, you’re not!
Do you feel you’re basically a good person, but others are not?
One point for each yes. I scored 362.
Humus = earth. Humble people are earthed in the reality of being human. We are creatures of this earth. Octopuses can assemble coconut shells to make a ‘house’. And humans think invertebrates are stupid! I know a zoologist who worked with octopuses, and she was quite certain that they were clever. I tell you, invertebrates will be around long after humans are gone.
Pride versus humility
Pride covets others’ success. Humility says ‘I’m delighted for you’ and means it.
Pride is about being selfish. Humility is about being selfless.
Pride is about getting glory. Humility is about giving glory.
Pride is about independence. Humility is about dependence.
Pride says to itself, ‘My will be done.’ Humility says to the Lord, ‘Thy will be done.’
Pride leads to dishonour. Humility leads to honour.
Proud people make terrible spouses, parents, friends, colleagues, bosses, church members. Humble people, by the grace of God, can be a good spouses, parents, friends, colleagues, bosses, church members.
Are you going to start high and end low, or are you going to start low and end high?
Forget me me me. Take stock of your gifts and skills and faults. Accept them, be earthed, then focus on the Divine. Never mind competing with others. Make the best of what comes your way and pass it on.
When’s the last time you were on your knees? Some say, ‘I never get on my knees.’ When was the last time you acknowledged your pride to someone else? ‘I would, but what will other people think?’ Never mind other people. As Evagrios said, the worst demon of all is that which incites us to seek the approval of others.
Look at the news. Syria. Egypt. People gouge out a child’s eyes in China. People abuse children. Politicians screw their people. However much we may be horrified at the behaviour of those in the news, it hurts to acknowledge that it is but an extreme version of our own. It all comes down to supposing that ‘my’ wishes are more important than anyone else’s.
I need to remember that when I’m sitting at traffic lights, cursing some old trout in the car in front who seems to be waiting for a particular shade of green.
This is the sin of the world.
You pet a dog, the dog wags its tail and thinks you must be a god. You pet a cat, and the cat purrs, shuts its eyes and thinks it must be a god. What about you? How do you think?
If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is humility. St Augustine.