Lady Pharisee vs Humility.
The human society could be compared to the human body. Every human being has something of him/her that the body does not like. Naturally the body finds a way of isolating such substances. That way the body finds a way of getting rid of such substances, and we brand them unwanted, excess or poisonous. Granted that the body does not need such substances, but they are still the product of the body. Urine, feces, sweat, menstrual blood, etc., all of these are products of the body. All of these have some special functions to make the body what it is. We do not stand the smell of open sewage but whatever is in the sewage came from us. The question is, does the sewer serve any useful purpose? I believe it does. It collects all that we want so much to get rid of, and transport them to either the soil or the water. These unwanted substances mix up with the soil to produce something we need; and when fish consumes them, we pay some pretty good amount to buy the fish from the water.
Socially, religiously and culturally, it is easy to dream for ideals as we try everything possible to overlook the reality on ground. We treat people who lie, the prostitutes, people who get involved in adultery, the robbers, people who indulged in mass shooting and terrorism, the people we call idolaters, swindlers, the outcasts, and what other kinds of moral, social and cultural delinquents we have as things that belong to our moral, religious, social and cultural sewers. But we forget that the so-called delinquents are products of those that think of themselves as virtuous and innocent. The poor are products of the rich. Terrorism are products of bad governments and self-acclaimed nonviolent persons. In one way or the other, we create laws and rules that are naturally antihuman, and we make rules that favor a few that seek power and affluent by all means. In one way or another we adopt legislations and constitutions that protect our vulnerability at the expense of those we claim to serve and those we claim to be saving. In one way or another we either trick people into giving up their means of livelihood and identity, or force them to sell or give up what has sustained them for so long a time. When greed and selfishness make politicians think less of the people and think more of their immediate families and close friends, they are giving birth to social violence, robbery, kidnapping and such crimes. When we teach holiness as everything contrary to human nature, we create a lot of guilt in people’s consciences, because no one can cheat nature. When we build ammunitions of different effects and categories is our intention not to make money? And if we have to make money, we have to create market for our products. In order to create market for the ammunitions, we have to make sure that we create need for our products. Need is what drives demand for products or services. We get the money we want, but at what cost, war, bloodshed, destruction of lives, lands and properties. We also destroy trust between ethnic groups, tribes, and nations. We create tremendous suffering, illnesses and starvation. We destroy the natural habitats of people and animals, and the effect is heavy migration. What kind of morality shall we preach to someone who is trying to survive starvation, poverty, annihilation, illness and trauma of war and violence that we caused (directly or indirectly).
How did all these start: sinners and saints, evil and good, right and wrong, virtues and vices, moral and immoral? The Book of Genesis says that God created them in His image and likeness, male and female, and He called both of them man (5: 2). God created one human being, Man. Through this man, God wishes to populate the earth; so He made two sexes out of the same man. But we let ourselves be lured into the pleasure bigger than what God already gave us freely, we let ourselves be led into the seduction of becoming God. We let the pride of lucifer got into our head; he refused to adore and serve God in human form thereby creating the idea of superior and inferior, perfect and imperfect, right and wrong, man and woman, etc. Up till now, this single fundamental idea has not left us. All that God wanted us to enjoy is being humans, and letting Him be God in our lives.
A priest once shared his encounter with a lady in a parish. He was still a seminarian but that year, he had his summer mission work in a particular parish. One day after Mass, he sat on a pew in front of the tabernacle discussing with a woman who had a lot going on in her life. After the conversation, the lady came to him outside the church, and began to tell him how sinful it was to sit close and discuss with a woman right in front of the tabernacle. Every attempt he made to help the lady see that Jesus Christ would do more for the woman if he were to be physically present did not change the lady’s point of view a bit. He finally called the lady, “Lady Pharisee”.
Today both the Gospel and the first reading speak to the human situation in order to bring the healing ingredient that is missing. This ingredient is humility. It is a disposition contrary to pride. Since pride is at the center of every division, fighting, hatred, terrorism, shame and perfectionism; humility should be at the center of unity and peace, love and security, honor and self and others-acceptance. We recognize humility because it is truly patient and doesn't easily get frustrated with the imperfection of others. Humility knows that mistakes and inadequacies are part of being human. It is a disposition that tolerates both the self and others when deficiencies appear and failures happen. Humility recognizes its own limitations. Both Ben Sirach and Luke note that prayers made in humility of heart reaches God quickly. Paul, even at the last days of his life on earth, still sounded so much like the pharisee he was. Nobody speaks and acts from nowhere. Listen to him touting of how he has finished the race, how he has kept the faith and how he deserves a price, the crown of righteousness. The pharisee described in the Gospel is also demanding his own crown of righteousness. He, like Paul, has list of his justification, and these include “not been like the other people, not been crooked, adulterous, condemned the humble tax collector, and mentioned paying tithes and fasting twice a week.” (Lk. 18: 10 – 11). The connection between Paul and the pharisee in the temple is that both are perfectionists. If we are truly humble, we shall see part of ourselves even in those we seek to criticize, judge and condemn. Let us live humbly and pray patiently with faith in God.