Sunday, October 23, 2016

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week: “The rivers of Grace cannot flow uphill, up the steep cliff of the proud man's heart.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

What happens to a person who exalts himself, thinking he is better than others?

What becomes of a person who thinks that because she follows some rules or procedures that her life is better than someone else’s life?

Jesus, not surprisingly, has some strong opinions about this. The final line in today’s Gospel states it clearly: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

But what is underneath all of this?

It would be dishonest to say that the Pharisee did nothing good. On the contrary, as he states: “I fast twice a week. I pay tithes on my whole income.”

These can hardly be criticized; in fact, they are praiseworthy, but it reminds one of the person who is so busy bragging about himself he can’t hear anyone else giving him a compliment.

Even this in itself is not the problem. What good is it to do good if it only becomes the platform to judge and condemn others? Who has the right to judge?

Is there any difference in condemning actions rather than persons? Might it not be just a little arrogant to condemn the rest of humanity?

It seems rather strange to lump all of humanity together as greedy, dishonest, and adulterous — that doesn’t appear to be how God sees it.

A good representative from the rest of humanity gives quite a different view of himself. He “stood at a distance” and he would “not even raise his eyes to heaven.”

Instead, beating his breast, he just prayed: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

The contrast is embarrassing. One is so proud he condemns all of humanity; the other is so humble he only asks God for mercy.

Self-righteousness is the one thing attacked most consistently by Jesus. It is clearly the attitude that gets in the way of caring for anyone except self. Jesus’ own description of the self-righteous is the one who “despised everyone else.”

The self-righteous truly think that their efforts are the most important ones. Yet far more important than anything that we do is what God does for us and in us; far more important than our achievements is his love.

One filled with judgement and condemnation is probably not empty enough to be filled with love and compassion. Isn’t it obvious why Jesus was so concerned about this?

Is Jesus’ truth not our truth: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

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