March 23, 2009

The Bitter Better Pill

Saturday – 3rd Week of Lent
Luke 18: 9-14 “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one
who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Paul and his wife returned to New York after 20 years of service in Africa. It was an uneventful day for them but not to the President of the United States who also arrived at the airport in his Air Force One after two weeks of vacation. People from all walks of life welcomed the President. The bands played music. Paul said to his wife, “It seems that our 20 years of service in Africa is a big mistake. Nobody welcomes us. Nobody recognized our years of hard work and sacrifice.” His wife lovingly hugged him and said, “Just pray.” After an hour of prayer, his wife asked him, “Did God talk to you?” Paul nodded with a smile and said, “God said, Paul don’t expect a warm welcome here, you are not yet home.”

Is it possible that, after years of personal prayer, masses, prayer meetings and outreach programs to the poor, you realized that not all your prayers are genuine? And not all your service or good works are genuine? Believe it or not, it is possible … especially if we are infected by the dreaded “Pharisee Virus.” Unfortunately, many of those who are contaminated with this spiritual virus are not even aware of it. The virus hides under the skin of self-righteousness, pride, and “I know more than thou” attitude.

The best way to understand this spiritual virus is by entering into the shoes of the typical Pharisee in our gospel. I realized that he is not really praying to God but to himself, “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of the community – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and I pay tithes.” (Luke 18:11). He is actually priding or praising himself in the guise of praying!

Self-centered Christians who are not well appreciated and loved are prone to Pharisee Virus. Majority of them are KSP (“Kulang Sa Pansin”). Because of their self-centeredness, they are always craving for attention and love, but they are denied. The more they are denied, the more they seek for attention and love, but the more they are denied. It is a vicious trap. And when they failed to get love and attention, they ended up artificially loving themselves by priding themselves of their “good works” and begin criticizing and belittling others.

BEWARE. All of us are prone to this virus if we are not sensitive to our feelings and movements of different spirits (God, self, and evil) in our hearts. It is very subtle. It weaves naturally in our basic human need to be praised, needed and loved. There is nothing wrong to seek praise and honor for all our hard work. We need to be loved and praised. But if the virus totally controls us, then all our “good works” will be (unconsciously) motivated by our selfish desire to seek personal glorification and praise.

The antidote to this destructive virus is the bitter better pill known as the “Tax Collector Pill.” Main ingredients: HUMILITY – from knowing that everything is a gift or grace from God, even the good works that we did. Ironically, the recognition that we owe everything to God is the basis for true self-esteem – “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14b)

One of my friends in New Bilibid Prison gave me another supplement pill to purify my motivation when serving others and to keep me humble: “Willy, when you do something for others, don’t expect anything in return, even the word “Thank You.”

"When we become aware of our humility, we've lost it."
- Anonymous

- Fr.Willy M. Samson,SJ
Carmelite Convent, March 20, 2009

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