Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Humble Pride!

I’m Gorgeous Inside!

There is a lovely Victorian house I pass on my way north as I drive through my neighborhood. It has had a For $ale sign in the front yard for at least three months. Today as I passed by another sign was perched atop the For $ale sign. It read: I’m Gorgeous Inside!  I thought this was a great sign – one that would entice me to stop, go within, and validate its proclamation!

However, I thought it also was a great metaphor for what I experience when I attend weekend gatherings for participants in the spiritual direction preparation program, of which I am an adjunct supervisor. I meet so many wonderful and sincere people who desire to deepen their spiritual life and walk as a faith-filled companion with those seeking to deepen their relationship with God.

I found that as I sit in the varied group activities, I marvel at the courage, faith, hope, and resiliency of these participants. They truly are gorgeous inside and I am privileged and honored to stand with them in their laughter and tears as they share their journey stories.            
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector. Jesus wants to teach his listeners a lesson about pride and the Pharisee gets to be the “bad guy” in the story. He has a prayer chuck full of all that he is and is not . . . and he is proud that he is not like others, especially tax collectors. He took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself “I thank you, God that I am not like the rest of humanity . . .” He thanks God for all his gifts.  So what’s the hook in his prayer?  He is proud of his humility before God and glad that others don’t have what he has and hopes that they don’t get it.

The second person in the parable is the tax collector who “stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed.” Being a tax collector was considered one of the worst jobs to have. As a Jew and tax collector, he was under the authority of “Big Brother” – the Roman Empire, of which all the tax monies funded the Empire and its territories. He had to be sure that the people pay him the taxes or else he gets no food, no place to live, no way to provide for his family, and no way to pay rent – he would be desperate. “This man is unclean. He works for Rome; he embodies, he displays, he makes present Rome’s power and authority. He has put his life in service to God’s enemy. It’s the most disgusting, dishonorable, unfaithful, thing anyone could do.”  His place in the temple is not with the Pharisee but among the unclean.  However, in his humble prayer, he doesn’t look up, he bows to the ground.  He prays: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”   He speaks his prayer with integrity and humility.

So are not both gorgeous inside?
However, the Pharisee’s vision is blurred by the illusion that the goodness and holiness he exhibits is only for him and he is proud of his humility.  Let us ponder: have we ever had a prayer where we set ourselves off from the rest of humanity . . . and were we proud of our humility? What prayer did we really need to pray?

Or have we prayed like the tax collector knowing what it is like to live on the margins in a community, a church, the government, etc.?  What was the gift in the challenge of this experience?

Another Story:
One day a Rabbi, in a frenzy of religious passion, rushed in before the ark, fell to his knees, and started beating his breast, crying, “I’m nobody! I’m nobody!”
The cantor of the synagogue, impressed by this example of spiritual humility, joined the Rabbi on his knees. “I’m nobody! I’m nobody!”
The custodian, watching from the corner, couldn’t restrain himself, either, He joined the other two on his knees, calling out, “I’m nobody! I’m nobody!”
At which point the Rabbi, nudging the cantor with his elbow, pointed at the custodian and said, “Look who thinks he’s nobody.” (Chassid)

No comments:

Post a Comment