It’s the big fact of American life now, isn’t it? That we are patronized by our inferiors. - Peggy Noonan
I couldn't resist the Noonan quote, after I saw it on Tumblr.
It made me wonder if our real problem in the United States is that we all regard one another and anyone else who opposes us, as inferior.
That self-righteous thing really bites us in the butt, doesn't it? For sure me, and I'll go out on a limb and suggest most of us.
If we are lucky - that is - if we are open to grace - we might just recognize this arrogance in ourselves, and rather than deny it or defend ourselves, we can repent and ask for mercy - that is, for forgiveness. Our Lord uses every means to help us understand and seek his salvation, to seek his grace, to ask for his love and mercy. The more contemptible our sins, the more 'shameful' even, the more we may humble ourselves - at long last, perhaps. Broken and alone, after everyone leaves us to ourselves, perhaps exactly like the woman caught in adultery, left alone at the feet of Jesus, barely able to lift her head ... or just like the tax collector in today's Gospel ... we are finally able to pray ..., "God, be merciful to me a sinner".
I think that is how we can come to rejoice in our powerlessness, our defects in character, our disability to attain the virtues we envy in others, and to be content with our imperfections, confessing our failings while ceaselessly praying for the Divine Mercy to engulf our soul. As St. Therese said, "Everything is a grace!" She explained it like this: "Sometimes it happens,that despite their best efforts, some souls remain imperfect because it would be to their spiritual detriment to believe they are virtuous or to have others agree that they are."
I may have missed the intended irony Noonan expressed at the close of her article concerning the Wikileaks anti-Catholic emails, writing: "I don’t know about you but when people look down on me I want them to be distinguished or outstanding in some way—towering minds, people of exquisite sensibility or learning." Nonetheless, it brought to mind the Pharisee in today's Gospel, thanking God he wasn't like the rest of men. That same Pharisee might have been among those who later challenged the man born blind, after he had been cured by Jesus, accusing him, "You who were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" The Pharisees were considered to be men of "towering minds, people of exquisite sensibility or learning." Yet they were Christ's inferiors, weren't they. The Son of God submitted like a lamb, without exulting himself. He took the form of a slave - a sinner - humbling himself, allowing himself to be shamed and condemned, and made into a fool, crucified like a criminal. It was at that point when he was 'lifted up'.
We can never be more humble than Christ.
"I will limit myself to recommending one virtue so dear to the Lord: He said, 'Learn from me who am meek and humble of heart." I risk saying an error, but I am saying it: the Lord loves humility so much that, sometimes, he permits grave sins. Why? So that those who have committed these sins, afterwards, having repented, may remain humble. One is not tempted to believe oneself half–saint or half–angel, when one knows that one has committed grave faults. The Lord so much recommended: be humble." - Pope John Paul the First
Today's Gospel is a great grace - a call to me for certain - urging me to give up my self-righteousness - how? To confess it in prayer - to acknowledge it. Then, to accept the consequences of it - not expecting to be congratulated or exulted for recognizing my shortcomings. And to be sure, not to be surprised when I find myself alienated or alone, but rather, as John of the Cross knew well - to even rejoice to suffer and be despised. Or at least to allow it - if that be God's will for me. I haven't fared very well with all of that thus far. Yet that failure too is a grace. I think.
"In aridity and emptiness the soul becomes humble. Former pride disappears when a man no longer finds in himself anything that might cause him to look down on others." - Science of the Cross