Why Jesus condemned the self-righteous

Published October 27, 2019, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

WORD ALIVE

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD
Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD

In a street accident, a lady doctor tried to help the victim but suddenly a nurse came and said arrogantly, “Miss, excuse me. Everybody please step back! I’m a nurse. I’ve had a course in first aid and I’m trained in giving CPR.”

As the nurse broke through the curious crowd, she turned red with embarrassment. The victim was a horse!

* * *

The cocky nurse might well sound like the Pharisee in the gospel of this 30th Sunday. Jesus says, “He who exalts himself shall be humbled.”

In Christ’s parable, the self-righteous religious leader thanks God, saying,”I am not like other men, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, nor even like this tax collector.”

* * *

He goes on to remind God that he religiously goes to church, pays tithes, fasts twice a week, and prays.

The tax collector, on the other hand, stood timidly in a dark corner at the back, beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Lk 18, 13).

* * *

It was this tax collector, this self-accused sinner, Jesus says, who “went down to his house justified rather than the other.”

Why did Jesus give such a verdict which to his hearers would be nothing less than “outrageous”?  Certainly, he could not condemn the Pharisee for his works of piety and morality, or condone the publican for being a swindler and extortionist, as all tax collectors during Christ’s time were regarded.

* * *

What was terribly wrong was the Pharisee’s whole attitude.  By boasting to God of his merits, he patted himself on his back.

Worse, he despised others, particularly the publican, saying in effect, “What a good man I am!” thereby smashing his goodness in one blow.  Christ concludes: “Anyone who exalts himself shall be humbled while he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (Lk 18, 14).

* * *

When I was a school administrator, I recall how one faculty member would constantly JUSTIFY his misdeeds and failings as reported by his students and colleagues.

Always the hero (bida) of his stories, he never admitted he ever made a mistake.

* * *

This has similarity with a university professor who went  to see a holy hermit and asked to be enlightened. The holy man began to serve him tea.

He filled the guest’s cup and then kept on pouring so that the tea was soon dripping unto the floor. Watching the overflow, the professor said: “Stop! It is full. No more will go in.”

* * *

“Like this cup,” said the hermit, “you are full of your own opinions, preconception, and ideas. You cannot be taught unless you first empty your cup.”

Emptying one’s cup can mean humility to listen to people’s advices instead of presuming you know everything. It can also mean removing biases or being open to the ideas of others even if we don’t agree with them.

A person who is full of himself is actually denying the possibility of personal and spiritual growth in his life. He is doomed to be forever humbled.

* * *

ASK YOURSELF: Do I have a “holier-than-thou” attitude or a loathsome pride? Do I tend to look down on others, especially the wayward, illiterate, and underprivileged?

* * *

THE LIGHTER SIDE. Three kids are bragging to each other. The first says, “Our house is worth P20 million.” The second countered, “Our garage alone costs P15 million.”

* * *

The third says, “That’s nothing. The roof of our house is worth P500 million.” Dumbfounded, the two kids blurted out, “Why so expensive?”  “Our roof is the flyover!” he curtly replied.

* * *

Pride is the worst of all sins. It makes one feel that he is better than others, and that he doesn’t need help from anyone — including God.

St. Philip Neri once said: “Human pride is the hardest to die. It dies 10 minutes after you’ve stopped breathing.”

* * *

THANK YOU — A generous donor wrote: “My sons have no vocation to the priesthood so I might as well help others become priests.”

Chip in an amount or sponsor a seminarian’s schooling for one year. For inquiry, e-mail me at: [email protected].

* * *

GOD BLESS…our latest donors: Danilo Sevilla, Fernando-Bea Sim, Engr. Menchie dela Cruz, Persiverando Lukban.

 

 
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