28th Sunday C
2 Kings 5:14-17; Psalm 98:1-4; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19

Both the Old Testament reading and the Gospel reading today have a clear connection – both tell of people with leprosy, and both are about people who although being foreigners in Israel, one a Syrian and one a Samaritan, both were cured through faith in the God of Israel. Leprosy is a mildly contagious but highly disfiguring disease. There was a mistaken belief that it was highly contagious, so much so that anyone who had leprosy had to live apart from everyone else. This practice was common even in the 20th Century. In Biblical times it was incurable, but today it is easily cured, although there are estimated to be over 200,000 people who have the disease today.

You may have heard the story of a Belgian priest, now known as St Damien of Molokai. He lived in Hawaii in the late nineteenth century. At that time there was an island near to Hawaii, called Molokai, where people who had leprosy were shipped and abandoned to an extremely miserable life. Leprosy, along with many other diseases, had been brought to the islands by Europeans. Fr Damien was so shocked by what happened to these people that he asked his bishop if he could go to them, to show them God’s love, to show them that God had not abandoned them. The bishop reluctantly agreed. He lived among them for sixteen years, and during that time he ministered to the sick, bringing the Sacraments of confession and Holy Communion and anointing those who were bedridden. He washed their bodies, bandaged their wounds and tidied their rooms and beds. He did all he could to make them as comfortable as possible. Eventually he became one of them, and died of leprosy in 1889. What great courage, great faith and great selflessness it took to help and care for these people who had been abandoned and cast out by everyone else.

Naaman, the Syrian, who we heard about in the first reading, had leprosy, and he washed himself in the river Jordan, as instructed by Elisha. When he came up from the water ‘his flesh became clean once more like the flesh of a little child.’ What a beautiful miracle! Naaman had been touched by the healing power of God, and he said, ‘now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.’

The desire of God to bring healing to the world is manifested most powerfully in Jesus, the Son of God. Healing is central to his ministry and his mission. Jesus has the power not only to heal diseases but also to forgive sins, the healing of the whole person, body and soul. The ten lepers, who we heard about in today’s Gospel, were healed after declaring their hope in Jesus by saying, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.” And he did. But only one came back to thank him, the one who was not a child of Israel but a foreigner, a Samaritan. This is a sign, as with the healing of Naaman, that God shows his love for all people.

I was surprised to discover that the Samaritan leper is the only person in the whole of the New Testament who is recorded to have personally thanked Jesus. It made me question how often I give thanks to God. How often do I thank God for the many blessings in my life? How often do I really and deeply feel gratitude for all that God has done for me? How often have I been thankful for the healing that comes in the sacraments, in Baptism, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist? Not often enough!

The healing of the outward disfigurement of leprosy is a sign of the inner healing that comes to us from Jesus in the Eucharist and the other sacraments. Naaman entered into the water of the river Jordan and came out of it like a new person, like a new born child, which reminds us of baptism. When we are baptised we are healed of the spiritual disfigurement caused by sin and born again as a child of God. When we come to Mass we are doing what the ten lepers did by coming to Jesus in hope. Like the lepers, we are coming to Jesus and we are asking for mercy and for healing. We give thanks like the leper who came back to Jesus, who ‘praised God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.’ He showed that he had been healed not just in his body but in his soul.
The word Eucharist means ‘to give thanks’. So, let us live in a spirit of joyful gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, for the many blessings which we often forget to be thankful for, and for the healing which keeps us strong in the faith that saves us.

 

Brendan Vaughan-Spruce, October 2016

27th Sunday C – Faith
Habakkuk 1:2-3;2:2-4
Psalm 95:1-2,6-9
2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14
Luke 17:5-10

In the world of today there is so much that is deeply disturbing: war, terrorism, abuse, greed, poverty, exploitation, oppression, prejudice. Some see all of this as signs of the end times, signs that the end of the world is near. The problem with this view is that what is happening in the world today, awful as it is, is nothing new. We heard in the reading from the prophet Habakkuk a desperate cry for help: ‘How long am I to cry for help while you listen; to cry “Oppression!” in your ear and you will not save? Why do you set injustice before me, why do you look on where there is tyranny? Outrage and violence, this is all I see, all is contention and discord flourishes.’ Habakkuk lived around 600 years before Christ. He cannot understand how God can stand by and watch. But the Lord asks him to be patient, and urges the people to have faith. Israel’s faith and faithfulness had become weak. It is difficult to trust in God when faith is weak. It is difficult to live lives which counter the evil that we see, to live lives witnessing to God who we have faith in, if our faith is weak.

And yet, Jesus says in the Gospel, “Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” But do we believe that? Is faith that powerful? We are here today because we have faith in God. But how strong is our faith? The apostles, the leaders of the Church, were with Jesus because they had faith in God, and faith that God’s will was being done in Jesus. But clearly they knew that their faith was weak, because they said to Jesus, “Increase our faith.” This should be a daily prayer for all of us. Benedict Groeshchel wrote, ‘If we stand back from the beautiful idea of faith and belief, we can see that we have to work at it. Faith does not just happen. It may have been given to someone as a child, but it will not be sustained unless it is cherished and taken care of.’ In the reading from St Paul today, Paul said, ‘Keep as your pattern the sound teaching you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.’

Faith is a precious gift from God, a gift that is offered to everyone. We need to accept the gift, love the gift and cherish the free and unearned gift of God. Faith in God is the only place for our complete trust, for only God will never let us down, because God alone is all powerful and all loving. We need to have faith in God because in God alone is our liberation and salvation from all that is bad in this world, and from all that is bad and sinful in us. What else is there to put our faith in? Politicians? Technology? Property? Sadly, some put their faith in clairvoyants, mediums and psychic events. The Church and Scripture warn us to avoid these events, because they summon powers that are not of God. They conceal a desire for power over time, history, the future, and over other human beings. They seem to give assurances that are in fact a deceitful and dark illusion, a trick. They lead in a way that is opposed to faith and trust in the providence of God’s love. We need to put our faith in God, who alone can bring us the peace, happiness and consolation that our hearts desire.

But faith is not simply what we believe in. Let us ask ourselves, how do we let our faith in God affect the way we live? Do we make the connection between our belief in God and our faithfulness, by trying to be faithful to what God has revealed himself to be, through Scripture and the teaching of his Church? If we do not make that connection, then what does having faith mean? What is the point of it, other than giving us the comfortable feeling that one day, hopefully, we will go to heaven? That would be a very self-centred view of faith. Faith alone is pointless if we do not allow it to transform what we do and say and desire. Our faith is in God, God who is love. When the apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith, his response was to tell them a parable about a servant. Surely he was telling them that in order to increase their faith they needed to put it into practice, through humility, by serving others. Jesus also said, ‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…’ Our faith in God is faith in love, and love is not just a feeling. Love is fulfilled when it is expressed and when it is freely and unconditionally given to another.

There is a wonderful reflection by Mother Teresa, which shows how the various elements of the Christian faith connect:
‘The fruit of silence is prayer
The fruit of prayer is faith
The fruit of faith is love
The fruit of love is service
The fruit of service is peace.’

 

 

BVS, October 2016

God and Mammon – 25 Sunday C
Readings: Amos 8:4-7 | 1 Tim 2:1-8 | Luke 16:1-13

Recently there was an investigation into a large and prosperous sports company in the UK because it was treating its employees so badly. The investigation revealed that some staff were receiving less than the minimum wage, that there there were instances where staff were not given proper breaks, sick leave or holidays. There was also a poor health and safety record. During an enquiry by MPs, one MP commented, “The evidence we heard points to a business whose working practices are closer to that of a Victorian workhouse than that of a modern, reputable High Street retailer.”

We may be appalled that a very wealthy employer could treat his employees with such a lack of respect. In the first reading that we heard today, from the prophet Amos, we heard a condemnation of this kind treatment of the poor, ‘Listen to this, you who trample on the needy and try to suppress the poor people of the country…’ He goes on to describe the exploitation of the poor. ‘The Lord says, ‘Never will I forget a single thing you have done.’ (Amos 8:7) Jesus said what you do to the poor you do to him. ‘Injustice against the poor is a sin of particular gravity in the eyes of God. Unfair wages and working conditions and fraudulent deception of the needy are among the many sins that violate the seventh commandment.’ And what is the seventh commandment? ‘You shall not steal’. This may seem odd at first, but we know that when property and wealth is acquired unjustly, it is theft. ‘Many Fathers of the Church, including St Ambrose, St John Chrysostom, St Basil the Great, and St Gregory the Great, said quite straightforwardly that to retain wealth beyond what is sufficient for one’s needs is to steal from the poor.’ (Fr Gregory Pearson)

But this is not just an issue of theft. The willingness to use people as a means to get rich, with a complete disregard for their wellbeing or happiness, springs from choosing worldly wealth over God. Jesus says, ‘You cannot serve both God and money.’ So what happens if we choose to make a god of money or worldly wealth? From a Christian point of view, no human being should be treated simply as a means to an end. This is because all people, from the moment of conception, have an inherent dignity, because every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, and because God loves every single human being. We heard in the second reading today, God ‘wants everyone to be saved and reach a full knowledge of the truth…and Christ Jesus .. sacrificed himself as a ransom for them all.’ (Timothy 2:1-8) But if we take the one true God out of the picture, as many do, we remove in our minds, although not in reality, the inherent dignity of the human person and there is nothing to stop people from being treated like objects or possessions. The human person then only has the dignity that is granted in state law, and if the state decides that certain human beings have no dignity or value, such as is the case with the unborn child in this country, then they can simply be discarded. This is a consequence of choosing a false God.

The steward in the gospel reading was shown to have no respect for his master nor anyone else. Everything he did was for himself. Even after he was discovered to be dishonest and wasteful, he went on to cleverly retrieve some of the debt owed to his master. But he did this in order to win their friendship so they would help him when he lost his job. The master praises not his dishonesty nor his deception, but his astuteness, his clever way of thinking things through. Jesus says Christians should follow the clever way of thinking but not for our own worldly advantage but for the eternal good of all, for the love of God and the love of all.

The parable is a lesson for us as stewards of the things of this world. Everything we own is ours only in trust, for we are stewards of God’s creation, and we should respect it and use it well and wisely, and remember that the world was made for all and not just a few. This is why we help those in need, not just by sending money to the poor who are thousands of miles away, but also by showing love and compassion to those who live in our own neighbourhood. That may be a lot harder to do. It is quite easy to send off a cheque to Africa, especially if we are giving what we can easily afford, but not so easy to talk to someone who is homeless face to face. This is a love that really costs us something, which costs more than just money. But it is a love that recognises the human dignity in even the poorest person. God for the courage, for the generosity of heart, for the real love that it takes to look someone who is poor in the eye and to see Jesus looking back at you. Maybe this is a challenge for us today, on Home Mission Sunday, to seek out someone who is in need and show them they are loved, that they have a friend.

 

 

BVS, September 2016

Homily for Pentecost (C)
I am sure some of you will have seen a short Disney film, called ‘Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day’, which is based on the stories by A A Milne. Pooh and Piglet are walking outside on a very windy day, when suddenly they are blown up into the sky. Eventually they end up on the side of Owl’s house, high up in a tree, and they knock on his window, if I remember rightly. Owl is very surprised to see them! Although the wind cannot be seen, the effects of a strong wind are very visible, and even a light wind causes leaves and feathers to float in the air. So it is with the Holy Spirit, who is invisible but who is seen by his fruits.

Today’s celebration of Pentecost is the feast of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit did not begin His activity at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was present in the beginning. In the book of Genesis it says, ‘The earth was without form and void; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.’ The Holy Spirit was present and active in the life of the Jewish people throughout the Old Testament period, inspiring the Prophets and the writers of Scripture. In the Psalm that we heard today, it says, ‘You send forth your spirit, they are created and you renew the face of the earth.’ The angel, Gabriel, announced to Mary that she would conceive and give birth to a son, and said, ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.’

In the Gospel today we heard Jesus preparing his disciples for the time after his death, resurrection and ascension into Heaven. He told them he would send another Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Notice that he said ‘another Advocate’, for Jesus is also an advocate with the Father. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are One, but they are distinct persons. ‘It is Jesus Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him.'(CCC) Jews did not receive that revelation, and even today, like the Muslims, they do not believe that God is a Holy Trinity of Persons. Christians of all denominations are united in believing in the Holy Trinity. God the Father speaks and his Word is Jesus, the Son of God, and as the Father speaks He breathes, and his breath is God the Holy Spirit.

The word spirit in Hebrew is ruah, which means ‘breath’ or ‘wind’. On the day of Pentecost, which was a Jewish celebration of the harvest, always celebrated fifty days after the Passover, the disciples were together in a room in Jerusalem, possibly the same room where they had celebrated the last supper with Jesus fifty days earlier. They had witnessed the risen Jesus who had appeared to them a number of times before he ascended into Heaven. But they had been relatively inactive, and certainly had not begun any kind of mission to tell people about Jesus. But suddenly, in the house they were in, there was a powerful and noisy wind, ‘which filled the entire house.’ Their experience at that moment changed them. The Holy Spirit had come in power and had empowered them with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah, the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. They also had spiritual gifts such as healing and the gift of tongues. Immediately they began to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to crowds who had gathered there, people from many nations, and they understood. They were amazed and astonished.

So today we also celebrate the birth of the Church and the beginning of its mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus, the head of the Church, would always be present to the disciples, just as he had promised before he ascended into Heaven. And this mission to bring people into the healing love, life and light of Jesus continues today, and will continue until the end of time. This work of passing on the faith is handed on to us by our predecessors. So where is the Holy Spirit in our lives? Do we let him in or block him out most of the time? The disciples did nothing much until Pentecost, and they were fearful, and often in locked rooms for security. But they had a good excuse as the Holy Spirit had still not entered their hearts. If we are inactive and fearful, what is our excuse? Those of us who have been confirmed have received the same gifts of the Holy Spirit that the disciples received. Our confirmation was our own Pentecost. Sadly, many of us go through periods, and sometimes much of our lives, keeping the gifts of the Holy Spirit to ourselves. This year on the Vigil of Pentecost, people all over the world were praying in a special way for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic writer and preacher, Meg Hunter-Kilmer writes: ‘They’re praying that the power of God will be released in their lives, that they’ll live in the freedom of the Spirit.’ She says, ‘I think one of the most powerful ways that we’ll experience this is by giving God permission to touch hearts through us. If we decide that we’re going to unlock the door and walk out into the streets, proclaiming Christ and living the book of Acts, we’ll be transformed just as much as those we meet…This Pentecost, today, the Holy Spirit is coming down. Let us open our lives to him and go out to set the world ablaze.’

Homily for The Holy Trinity (C)

God the Father speaks and his Word is Jesus, the Son of God, and as the Father speaks He breathes, and his breath is God the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is revealed in Holy Scripture, and it is a gradual revelation through the Old Testament times until God revealed himself completely and fully in his Word who became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us now look briefly at how God revealed himself to be a Holy Trinity of persons and yet only one God.

In the book of Genesis there are two accounts of the creation. In the first account, the final act of God’s creation was to make human beings, the climax of creation, and for whom the whole of creation was made. In Genesis 1:26-27 it says, ‘God said, “Let us make make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves… ” When people first notice this passage they are surprised that God is referred to as plural, he says, ‘Let us..’, and ‘our own image’, and ‘ourselves’. So in the beginning of the Old Testament there is evidence that God is not a single person. But shortly after, and throughout the rest of the Old Testament, God is referred to in the singular. ‘God created Man in the image of himself…’ God gradually revealed himself to the Jewish people, as recorded in the Old Testament, and the emphasis in that revelation is that there is only one God, not many, and that God is one. In the book of Deuteronomy it says, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.’ Jesus quoted these words, and yet it was through Jesus that God was revealed to be a Trinity of persons. Jesus reveals that God is Father, ‘he spoke of God as his Father, and so made himself God’s equal’; and Jesus reveals that the Son is God, he said, ‘I tell you most solemnly, before Abraham ever was, I Am; and Jesus reveals that the Holy Spirit is God, he said, ‘When the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you into the complete truth.’ And before Jesus ascended he said to his disciples, ‘Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

Maybe some of you are finding this heavy going. Maybe you cannot see how it relates to your own life. And yet the Church teaches that our belief in the ‘Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian Faith and life.’ This is because ‘it is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them.’ (CCC234) Belief in the Trinity is so important in understanding the reason for our own existence and indeed the existence of all things. Scripture tells us that God is love, and love requires more than one. God’s love, as revealed to us most powerfully through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, needs to be given and received, it needs a relationship. God is a relationship within himself. As the Church teaches, ‘God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and has destined us to share in that exchange.’ (CCC221).

Clearly this does relate to our own lives, past, present and future. If we were asked what we value most in our lives, I am sure that most of us, if we really think about it, would not say it was any material possession or money. I think many of us would not even say it was own health. I would think that most people would say that what they value most of all is love and friendship. In other words relationships, and God is the source of the love in all of our relationships. In the second account of creation in the book of Genesis, it says after God had made the first human being, ‘The Lord God said, “it is not good that the Man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate.’ But after making all of the animals none were suitable, so God created a woman and brought her to the man. God makes the man and the woman and calls them to a loving and fruitful union, and family life. Saint John Paul II wrote, ‘God in his deepest mystery is not a solitude but a family, since he has in himself fatherhood, sonship, and the essence of the family, which is love.’

‘Because God is a Trinity God is love. Because God is love, love is the supreme value. Because love is the supreme value, it is the meaning of our lives, for we were created in God’s image.’as one Catholic writer puts it. (Peter Kreeft) God saw it was not good for man to be alone, for God was not alone in himself. It is God’s will that we are born from the loving relationship of our mother and father, although sadly because of sin this is not always the case. But everyone, without exception, is born out of the loving relationship of the Holy Trinity, for everyone is made in his image. We find our own happiness and fulfilment only when we have discovered that we have been born from love and we are destined for love, that we have a need to love and a need to be loved. This need and this love comes from the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit. So let us pray ‘that we may be enabled to bear witness to that truth which sets us free, to that love which makes us one.’

 

Homily for 15th Sunday (C)

Jesus is put to the test by a lawyer, an expert in Mosaic law, who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. But Jesus turns the question back to the lawyer, by saying, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ So the lawyer gives the answer, quoting from Deuteronomy and Leviticus, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ Jesus is happy with the answer and tells the lawyer, ‘do this and life is yours.’ Jesus says elsewhere in the Gospels that these are the greatest commandments. If that is the case, and if that is what is necessary to inherit eternal life then we have to understand that Jesus is talking not just to the lawyer, he is talking to us, to you and me, here and now. Jesus is saying that our eternal life rests on our willingness to give and to receive love. It is that simple. Or is it?

The lawyer clearly did not think it was that simple, because he went on to ask, ‘and who is my neighbour?’ It is interesting, I think, that the lawyer had no problem about who God is, just who his neighbour is! Today many would have of a problem with loving God, but I think there would still be the same issue about who is my neighbour. Some will think that loving their neighbour means loving the people of their country, or those who live near to them, or those who share a common nationality or religion or skin colour. This view is not much different to the view of the lawyer, who would have seen his fellow Israelites as his neighbours. So Jesus tells the well known parable about the Good Samaritan. However, just because it is well known, to Christians at least, this does not mean that we have fully grasped its meaning for us, nor does it mean that we are living in harmony with its message. Today it is good to think about this story in the context of the Year of Mercy. This is a story about mercy, about sharing the load and lightening another’s burden, but we shall see that it is not just about the mercy shown by one man for another, but also and firstly mercy that God shows for us.

So what is Jesus teaching us? Firstly, the priest and then the Levite, a member of the priestly tribe of Levi, who both walked on by, get a lot of bad press from this parable. How could good and holy people walk by on the other side when they could see a man lying in the road, who had clearly been attacked, who was bleeding and dying? Were they afraid for their own safety? Did they think he was already dead and so saw no point in risking their own lives? Jesus does not say why they did not stop and help, but one possibility is that maybe, in order to be faithful to the Mosaic Law, they needed to act as they did. To all appearances the man was dead, and the Law did not allow priests to touch a dead body other than a family member, because it would make them ritually unclean and unable to carry out their priestly ministry (ref. Leviticus 21:1). The problem with this is that it takes one aspect of the Law very seriously but ignores the most important aspect of the Law which requires, love, compassion and mercy. Jesus made the point on another occasion that the law about the sabbath rest was for the sake of the people, and should be broken if, for example, someone is in great need of help. This applies today with Church teaching, such as on the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday’s and holy days, if you are able. If, for example, you have responsibility for caring for someone who is sick and they need you to stay with them when it is time for Mass, then your obligation is to stay and help that person rather than to go to Mass. In other words mercy trumps liturgy. Of course, you should go to Mass at the next opportunity.

So, what about the Samaritan? The Samaritans and Jews disliked each other because they had different beliefs about God and a different way of life. So a Jew would definitely not have believed that a Samaritan was his neighbour, and vice versa. So is it strange that Jesus should once again choose a Samaritan to be the hero of the story? One point Jesus is making here is that people do not have to share the same faith and beliefs in order to be merciful to someone in need. Love is unconditional. All people are capable of being merciful, and this may be seen as evidence of God working in people, because when people are merciful they are actually moving towards God, with the help of God. In the story, the Samaritan makes himself a neighbour to the injured man, and puts aside all differences, dresses his wounds and takes him to a place of safety. He shows a deep love and compassion for a fellow human being, who may be a foreigner to him, but who is nonetheless his neighbour.

After telling the story Jesus said, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’ Remember, Jesus is not just talking to the lawyer, he is talking to us. We may not come across a dying person lying in the road very often, but we will know someone who is ill, or lonely, or sad, someone who needs someone to give them some help, or time simply to be there, to listen, to laugh or to cry with. This is the way of love and mercy, this is the way of Jesus, who is the Good Samaritan for us, who is always there for us, who will never pass by on the other side, and who, as St Augustine taught, comes to rescue us from death and brings us to the inn of the Church for refreshment and healing through the sacraments, and pays for it with his life.

 

Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Psalm 68:4-7,10-11
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24
Luke 14:1, 7-14

Homily for 22nd Sunday C

I am sure we all know that pride causes problems. Many of us will have experienced the difficulties that pride has caused within the family, such as when members of the family have a disagreement which has caused division. It means that some members of the family don’t see or speak to each other any more. Often the cause is relatively trivial, certainly not worth splitting up the family. Pride may not have been obviously present at the start of this rift, but it probably is the reason why the rift continues. Maybe someone has said something that offended us, and we will not let it go, we will not forgive, we will not back down. Why? Because pride blocks love for others and focuses on self love, and because of this, pride hurts ourselves as well as others. Pride damages relationships between people and between ourselves and God.

Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “There is perhaps not one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive. Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility”.

When pride becomes deeply rooted in us we become obsessed with a sense of our own importance. We are not interested in other people’s opinions, or preferences or desires. We promote ourselves at every opportunity. We think we are always right and others are always wrong. Pride can even make us believe that we do not need God, or we create an image of God that is modelled on ourselves. God will want what we want. But pride is always a failure to recognise the truth about ourselves. And the truth is that we have strengths and weaknesses, that sometimes we are right and sometimes we are wrong, that we depend on other people far more than we realise. But most importantly, the truth is that we are nothing before God, but God loves us as if we were everything. Everything that we have and are comes from God, for ‘in him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28)

So, cut off from the truth of our dependence on God, pride prevents us from loving, because we have become the centre and most important part of our own universe.

So how are we healed from our pride? In the Gospel, Jesus told a parable about a wedding feast. He advised people not to sit in the places of honour, but to sit in the lowest place. They may be asked to move up the table, and in that way the person who humbles himself will be exalted. But did Jesus mean this as some kind of trick to end up in a higher place? What if we chose the lowest place but then we are left there on that occasion? Do we get angry and annoyed and bitter about it? No, because the motivation for humility is love. In love we would be happy to see others taking the better seats, we would be happy and we would rejoice. But humility is not easy, and for many of us it would be very difficult not to feel bitter if we were left in the lowest place. ‘Humility is a gift. We need to ask God to make us humble. But, asking for humility is not enough; we need to do acts of humility. We have many opportunities every day for acts of humility: On the road in our car, in shop queues, in conversations. Each act of humility is an act of love, putting others first, showing respect, generosity and kindness. And we can do this when we are honest and truthful about ourselves, recognising that we are children of God and that all we have is a gift from God.

It has been said that ‘Humility is the most basic of all of the Christian virtues. In order to believe in God, we need to be humble. Humility allows us to believe in someone greater than ourselves. In order to love, we need to be humble.’ Humility allows us to forget ourselves and love our neighbour just as God loves us, unconditionally. Jesus is himself the most supreme and wonderful model of humility because, as Paul wrote in the letter to the Philippians: ‘His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.’ (Philippians 2:6-8)

In the light of God’s humility, manifested in Jesus, let us work on any problems of pride that we may have by asking for God’s help and for the gift of humility, so that in all humility we can reach out to those who we have hurt with our pride, for, in the words of St Therese of Lisieux, ‘The very moment God sees us convinced of our nothingness, He reaches out his hand to us.’