Good and Bad Pride

(July 7, 2019)

Bottom line: We can have a good pride in our nation. As Christians of course we do not look to our country for salvation.

It's a little belated but I wish you a happy Fourth of July. I want to talk about patriotism in relation to Bible teaching. I begin with a personal anecdote.

When I was a missionary in Peru there was a lot of anti-Americanism. It wasn't directed against me personally, but it was definitely in the air. One day graffiti appeared on a wall: Yankee, go home, it said. That night I felt bad. Next day the same graffiti was there: Yankee, go home. But someone had written below. And take me with you!

That illustrates two feelings about our country. On one hand we have past sins that still haunt us. At the same time most of us feel grateful to belong to this country. Many consider us the most desirable country because of our opportunities, our abundance, our freedom.

Others don't enjoy that freedom. Last week I mentioned the seven Romanian bishops who the government arrested, imprisoned without trial and tortured. That kind of arbitrary treatment is still common in many countries today. Many look to us as a beacon - and a magnet.

Again, when I was in Peru they surveyed young people about their dreams. As you can imagine many said they dreamed about becoming a professional or starting their own business. But the biggest dream was (pause) to come to the United States.

For sure, the U.S. is not paradise. European immigrants who left the old country imagined they were going to the Garden of Eden - a place without original sin. Well, they quickly discovered this country has many sins. Still America gave great opportunities to people like my ancestors who came from Norway and Croatia.

I am grateful to and proud of our country. In saying that I want to point out that the Bible has two different meanings for the word "pride". One type of pride we should reject, the other embrace. Let's start with the bad news: In the Bible pride often means that smug feeling of superiority, thinking that other people are stupid in comparison to me.

Next Sunday we hear about a man who thinks he is more clever than Jesus. Big mistake - as we shall see. Pride often has disastrous results. The Bible says, "pride goes before the fall". Jesus warns that the person who exalts himself will be humbled.

Paul had a lot of things that he could be proud of: his Hebrew heritage, his knowledge of the Scriptures, his enormous labor, but today we hear him say he only wants to boast in the cross of Christ. He takes no pride in the things this world values.

Now while Paul rejects destructive pride, he does acknowledge a place for a good pride. He tells the Corinthians that he takes great pride in them. (7:4) This good pride means affection and gratitude. I can say something similar about you. I have been with you ten years now and I take pride in you.

This good pride can be part of evangelization. Today Jesus sends his disciples two by two to bring in God's harvest. To do this effectively involves some affection, some good pride in each other. I hope you can say, "Come to St. Mary of the Valley. We have a pastor who loves us and cares for us. We have a pastor who lifts up Jesus." Being disciple makers involves having an admiration for each other, gratitude, affection.

When we take pride in each other, it's because of gratitude for the blessings we have received and the desire to extend them. Something similar applies to patriotism - pride in our nation. Next week we will hear about a man who with humility extends his blessings to an unfortunate person.

For today we acknowledge that, like St. Paul, a priest can take pride in his parishioners - and parishioners in their priest - and in each other. Parents can have good pride in their children - and children in their parent. Just so we can have a good pride in our nation. As Christians of course we do not look to our country for salvation. Like Paul we ultimately boast only in the cross.

With that in mind we can say:
God bless American land that I love...

And we can pray:
God mend thine every flaw
Confirm thy soul in self-control
Thy liberty in law!


What Pursuit of Happiness Meant to Founders (Audio version of homily for 14th Sunday, Cycle C - 2016)

Spanish Version

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

2016: Becoming a Disciple Week 5: Pursuit of Happiness
2013: Focus on Mission - Part One
2010: Healing the Family Tree
2007: Stepping Out
2004: The Wealth of Nations
2001: What We Need
1998: Political Involvement and Discipleship

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*

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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)

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