My defining word for 2017 is trust. Trusting in the Lord, and not my own abilities, failures, and fears. Here’s one from the archives. One of my lifetime lightbulb moments in trust. #WorthRevisit
Holy Thursday Mass 2016
After receiving the Eucharist, I knelt and prayed a while. Some infraction of the Mass rubrics was ticking me off. I was salty and seethed a bit internally. I prayed “Oh God, I’m so sorry that people ignore your Church’s instruction, and disrespect your authority. They have so many false ideas, which lead them down the path towards grave error even. What can I do to correct them?”
God’s presence resonated within me. He silently resonated so much within me. Firstly, that if I were praying out of genuine compassion, this would be a very different conversation. Instructing the ignorant is a work of mercy, but my motivations were not so pure.
At that, the veil dropped from my self-contented eyes. I saw the pride with which I esteemed myself and my spirituality over others’. And why? Because I held a scrap of knowledge they did not? As if factoids and tidbits mean anything for the state of a soul.
Then the real kicker. He asked if I trusted him to deal with it himself?
Pride in myself surpassed my trust in God
Pride in my own knowledge led me to feel superior. We can never approach God with a servant’s heart, while puffed up on our own merits. We cannot be instruments of His mercy while focused on ourselves. Trusting in ourselves denies the real need for trust in God.
Only in hindsight can I place where I’ve heard such a prayer before. My prayer was a biblical one, of sorts, but not one we should seek to imitate. I was praying the pharisee’s prayer.
Luke’s gospel contains some of the most powerful, well-known parables of our Lord. In Chapter 18, Jesus tells a parable sharply contrasting two approaches to prayer. A pharisee, infamous for his practice of strictly adhering to (and surpassing) God’s covenant, prayed a self-congratulatory prayer. The lowly and hated tax collector did not recite a list of his own deeds and attributes. Instead, he humbled himself before God, begging His mercy.
These disparate men were both sinners in their own ways, but only one was humble enough to admit it. Jesus says that humility will be rewarded not a little, but all. “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.” (Lk 18:14)
How to be less prideful
I could tell you about cognitive exercises. Moving the will against prideful thoughts. Choosing instead to cultivate the virtue of humility. But I won’t. Pride cannot be combated through more reliance on your own efforts. The only answer is to realize how small you are, and ask help from God. Throw yourself into God’s arms.
Pray About It
- As St. Therese wrote:
I know, O my God, that you cast down the proud soul but give an eternity of glory to those who humble themselves. I want, then, to set myself in the lowest place, sharing your humiliation so as to “have an inheritance with you” in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Read the full text of her prayer for acquiring humility here.
- Reflect upon and pray the Litany of Humility, which begins “O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me. From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.”
- Instead of imitating the Pharisee, echo the tax collector. Become the humble publican, who according to Jesus Christ, “went home justified”. Kneel before Him in the Blessed Sacrament. Beat your breast. Veil your head. Cry out from your heart the ancient Jesus Prayer: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Oh, I also started reading much more challenging books on theology. So now I’m frequently brought down a peg, as I realize how little I truly know. That’s a constructive lesson in humility!
Like this post? You might enjoy my review of the book Trusting God with St. Therese. How do you deal with pride?