Pride is a word that can be confusing. There is a positive sense in which we can be proud of many things. Last week we all celebrated July 4th with great pride. We can be proud of our parents, achievements, faith, friends etc. St. Paul could say: “I have reason to be proud of my work for God” (Rom. 15:17). But there is a negative sense in which some people can be “puffed up” or “full of themselves” exhibiting a haughty attitude. C.S. Lewis, whose influence on Christianity is long lasting, wrote: “According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind…… it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began” (Mere Christianity, p.111).
But our culture seems to celebrate pride as a virtue whereas humility is seen as a weakness! Thus we see pride and arrogance among many rich and powerful, celebrities and stars, and even among some religious leaders. What does Bible say? “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride leads to over-confidence and arrogance in one’s own abilities. But it will eventually backfire on the proud because they are unable to see fault in themselves. We all are familiar with stories of “fall from grace” of many contemporary famous personalities.
No wonder, Jesus condemns intellectual pride in today’s gospel and says that the mysteries of the Kingdom are “hidden from the wise and the understanding, but revealed to little children” (Matthew 11:26). He knows that ordinary people with large, sensitive hearts can accept the “Good News” he preaches, while proud intellectuals cannot. Even the learned rabbis of Jesus’ time recognized that the simplest people were often nearer to God than the wisest. They composed stories to show that ordinary people often practiced great love and compassion, for instance, the story of the man who lent his tools to someone in need, or the woman who helped her neighbors. Jesus says that such people will inherit Heaven rather than the learned and the wise who pride themselves on their intellectual achievements but do not love. This is why spiritual masters of all persuasions insist that pride is the devil’s most effective and destructive tool! Let us take to heart what Jesus tells us today: “learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29)
Our Monday adoration is an opportunity to learn many things from Jesus. One gift we can learn from him is silence. Jesus welcomes us with a listening heart. Prayer is a dialog of talking and listening. We can speak to him in silence. But he will talk to us only when we have quieted our hearts and are completely silent. The more time we spend being with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in silence, the more we will begin to hear God’s voice. Let us use the Monday adoration for cultivating this gift of silence.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal