22nd Sun [C] 2004

Fr. Charles Irvin

Sirach 3:17-18,20; Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24; Luke 14:1,7-14


Well, Father, what’s wrong with being proud of your self? Aren’t we supposed to have some pride? Why are we supposed to be humble – what good does it do other than to allow others to take advantage of us?


Balancing pride with and humility is a problem for us all. My answer to the question about bring proud is: “it all depends”. It all depends upon what we’re being proud about. There are forms of pride that are good… and there are certainly forms of pride that are bad.


Let’s start with good pride.


We should have enough pride to render good quality workmanship. We should do things well and be properly proud of that quality of the product of our craftsmanship. We should be honorable, a quality lacking in today’s world. We should render an honest day’s labor for an honest wage and be proud of it. We should care for our employees and workers and be proud that we care for them.


If we have musical or artistic talents we should openly share them with others and not allow false humility that causes us to withhold what we can create for others. Hiding our light under a bushel does not give honor and glory to God, to our heavenly Father who gave us our talents so that we might brighten and build up the lives of those around us.


So, to be honest, there are forms of pride that are healthy and beneficial not only to ourselves but to others as well.


Then there are forms of pride that cut us off from others and isolate us. There is a kind of pride that comes from the delusion that tells us we’re totally self-sufficient. We’re deluded if we think we can handle everything and that we don’t need anyone else’s help. We disguise it by saying, “my problems are my problems – they’re no one else’s business. I can take care of my own problems.”

For instance I’ve heard some people proclaim that they’re not alcoholic. For them,

an alcoholic is a drunken bum, living in filth in the gutter, drinking booze from a bottle wrapped in a paper bag. In their deluded pride alcoholics say, “Thank God I’m not one of them!”


Well, the truth is that judges are alcoholics, doctors are alcoholics, airline pilots are alcoholics… and, yes, even priests are alcoholic. To bring that home to you – I am an alcoholic. And, yes, for many years pride kept me from admitting that fact. My pride prevented me from acquiring the necessary humility to let others help me bring it under control. Furthermore, alcoholism is a disease, and like diabetes for instance, it’s with you until you die. But so is epilepsy, and so it is with any number of other diseases. They will always be with us and we have to have set aside our prideful claim that we only have a “problem” with our diseases and can control them and take care of them all by our selves.


Pride keeps people in a world of denial. They think that while they may perhaps have a problem it’s only minor. The truth is that many others suffer from their problem. “I may drink too much once in a while”, they claim, “but it’s not hurting anyone.’ All the while their spouse and their children are suffering as the alcoholic rages on in they way he or she treats all who have to live with an alcoholic or work with that drinker.


Pride in anyone’s soul brings with it denial, rationalization and living a lie. Pride brings us into the hell of living in isolation.


Then there are horrible problem marriages. Pride rears its ugly head again, and I hear it said: “Well, I don’t need any counseling help. Counselors don’t know what they’re talking about. I can take care of my own problems – I don’t need anyone else’s help.” And as for priests, well what do they know about being married? No priest can help me!


So in this parable of Jesus that you’ve just heard, Jesus isn’t merely talking about nice table manners. No. He’s talking about the way you and I live our lives. He’s talking about the way we treat our selves, others, and God.


Pride keeps folks away from going to confession. They just can’t bring themselves to admit to a priest the nature of their sins. Too proud and too arrogant they say themselves “Well, I can confess to God without needing to go to a priest.” Such people are delusional – they end up striking their own bargains with God, setting their own terms for His forgiveness, deciding for themselves that they can take care of sin their own way. No help needed from you, Father.


If that’s so, then why did Jesus say to his first priests, the apostles, “Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” And when Jesus rose from the dead His first words to His apostles were “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven. And whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” Were these words of Jesus not to be taken seriously? Was He wasting His time in speaking to us about our prideful denials – or did He have something to say to us that He wanted us to take seriously?


Going to confession requires humility. Pride has to be put down. Prideful refusal to confess our sins blocks God’s graces from entering into us in the Sacrament of Penance.


And pride affects our relationships with those around us. Living prideful and self-centered life brings me into a hell on earth in which my ego pushes God aside and causes me to dominate, manipulate, rule and control others. Pride, we must always remember, was Lucifer’s downfall.


Pride is the root cause of all sin. Perhaps that’s why Jesus spent so much time pointing it out to us and calling us to humbly deal with it under God’s power, under God’s terms. And Jesus didn’t just talk about it – He lived it with his life and even died that we might receive the power that humility give us in order that our own lives and the lives of those around us can be a whole lot better.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”