A Lesson in Humility

(Thirtieth Sunday, Year C)

C. S. Lewis, a great pet lover, observed that dogs are publicans and cats are Pharisees: "I thank you that I am not like the rest of men or even like that dog over there..." A dog, on the other hand, always knows he has done something wrong. I admit I am more like the dog. When people criticize me, even if off target, I think to myself I have probably done something to deserve it. At the same time, I know that when I am doing pretty well, it is easy to fall into the Pharisee trap - to look down on someone who is lazy, lacking self control, selfish, etc.

The Pharisee, it must be admitted, is a quite good man: hard working, not sleeping around, honest, prayerful, and, perhaps most endearing to a pastor, he gives ten percent right off the top. If we had a hundred of them in Holy Family, we would be in great shape.

Unfortunately, the devil will allow us to conquer any vice, if we maintain the ugliest one - pride. He won't bother us with impure thoughts, anger, sloth, so long as he can keep us thinking how much better we are than the rest of men. We Americans are pretty good people. For that very reason, it is easy for us to slide into a sense of superiority. I don't know if what C.S. Lewis says about pets is true, but is it completely without significance that our favorite by far is the cat? They outnumber dogs three to one in U.S. households.

I am writing this homily in country where the opposite holds. Most families here own a dog (altho not a house dog) but very few have cats. These past three days, I accompanied members of the Mary Bloom Center to deliver some assistance to a remote community affected by the June 23 earthquake. On the way we ran into an elderly lady who lives alone in a small hut. High in the Andes Mountains she pastors a few alpacas. Her helper, and only companion, is a dog with whom she shares her meager food. We handed her two shopping bags containing rice, sugar, tuna fish and pasta. As we left I gave her a blessing, tracing the cross on her forehead. She took my hand and held it to her lips. That humble woman gave me a profound blessing - and a lesson in humility.

When we finally arrived at our destination, some community leaders took me to see their chapel. On the wall, they had posted a sign about the importance of solidarity. Certainly, we, who have been blessed with so many material advantages, need to share with the poor. At the same time, we know they have a special place in God's heart. As Sirach said in our first reading:

Though not unduly partial toward the weak,
yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.
The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan,
nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.


Spanish Version

Report on Earthquake Relief to Sacuaya (October 22, 2001)

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From Archives (Homilies for Thirtieth Sunday, Year C):

2016: Boots Laced Week 6: The Good Fight
2013: How to Pray, Part Three: Mass as the Publican's Prayer
2010: Posture at Mass
2007: The Cry of the Poor
2004: Be Merciful to Me, a Sinner
2001: A Lesson in Humility

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

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Asked whether he still supported the gay community in their efforts to gain civil unions and adoption rights, he replied that he did not. When asked whether God had "made a mistake in making [him] gay," Morrison responded that he didn't believe God had made him gay and that his same sex attraction was the result of earlier life experiences.

MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru

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