Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Pete
November 5th, 2023 - 8:30 AM, 11:00 AM
You probably know that nowadays, the word goat does not just refer to an animal. But it is an acronym for an athlete, who is considered the greatest of all time… GOAT goat. The term goat did not exist at the time of heavyweight boxer Mohammed Ali, but he would probably consider himself the GOAT of boxing. He had a way with words." I’m not the greatest. I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ‘em out, I pick the round. I’m the boldest, the prettiest, the most superior, most scientific, most skillfullest fighter in the ring today.” It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”
But one time, on an airplane, the flight attendant politely said to him, “Sir, you need to fasten your seat belt.” Ali replied, “Superman does not need a seat belt." To which the flight attendant politely responded, "And Superman does not need an airplane either; please fasten your seat belt, Sir."
Pride comes before a fall, goes the saying. Pride is also one of the seven deadly sins. In the Gospel today, Jesus is exposing the arrogant pride of the Pharisees. As he often does, Jesus is changing the way people think. Just because you have a title, it does not mean that you are better than anyone else or you can just boss them around.
When not in check, the ego has a desire to defeat or to expose the other person as bad or wrong. Sometimes, exposing one’s own superiority, does not need words.
Jesus is calling out the the religious practices of the scribes and Pharisees, he is criticizing. These actions of widening phylacteries and lengthening tassels are drawing attention to themselves and show that they lack humility. Sometimes the ego has a desire to be unique and different and do things that are in the mind of an egotistic person, holier than what other people do. There can be an inability to recognize religious arrogance. In light of the gospel, we might do an examination of conscience for ourselves, and ask if there is anything in my religious practice that is drawing attention to myself or making me think that I am holier than the people who do not practice as I do.
When any one of us takes the stance of humbly confessing that I am not perfect; I am not better than anyone else; but I am in need of God’s mercy, this is the kind of person that Jesus praises.
Archbishop Shelton Fabre is a servant leader, who makes an impression. When he was appointed our apostolic administrator back at the end of June, he told the priests that he is here to serve us. The archbishop told us a story of when he was a bishop in Louisiana after the devastation of a hurricane. A priest brought in a picture of Jesus on Palm Sunday, riding on a donkey, and the people were praising him waving palms. The priest asked the bishop to look at the picture and identify Who he relates to. The bishop said, “well I don’t know,” and he pointed to a man in the crowd who looked confused because that’s how he felt in the midst of the aftermath of the hurricane. The priest told him, “No, Bishop. You are the donkey.” And the bishop asked the priest, “Are you calling me an ass?” “No,” said the priest. “The donkey has characteristics of being obedient and humble to the one who is guiding him. He doesn’t even see Jesus on his back, but he just keeps going forward. He is trusting that he is going in the right direction because he is being led by someone greater even if he must be whipped a little to get back back on the right track. That’s why I think that you are the donkey.” What a great story of a humble leader, who encouraged us priests to be donkeys in this time of change in our diocese and in our parishes. To trust that Jesus is guiding us we just have to keep going forward.
Whoever exalts herself will be humbled, and the one who humbles herself, even like a donkey, will be exalted.