This is how Jesus began his ministry:
… Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
Repent and believe in the gospel. This is what Jesus is calling us to do. In the first reading, God sent Jonah to make a final attempt to save the great city of Nineveh by calling the Ninevites to repentance or to suffer total destruction. The Ninevites repented and were spared. John the Baptist called for repentance. God wants us to repent.
We are taught by the Church to know our sins, and we are given the Sacrament of Reconciliation to repent and ask for forgiveness, so that we can know with certainty that we are forgiven. God promises us forgiveness if we repent, just as happened in Nineveh.
But of what sins are we to repent and seek forgiveness? We need to understand sin in order to identify it. The Psalm today says, “Teach me your ways, O Lord.”
First, the Church has preserved the Ten Commandments of God to help us understand our basic relationship with God and with one another.
The Church also offers to us the traditional teachings about sin.
Not too long ago, we initiated a series of homilies to examine the Seven Deadly Sins. We have already covered six of these: Anger, Envy, Avarice, Gluttony, Sloth and Lust. (You may listen to or read these homilies by clicking on the homily link on the parish website.) We still have one more of the Seven Deadly Sins to examine: The sin of Pride.
Sin is almost always a personal, selfish decision that separates us from God. All sin is serious, but some sins are more deadly than others; The Mortal and Capital sins that kill our souls, separating us from eternal life with God.
Let’s recall that there is no eternal life apart from God. Only God is eternal. Nothing else is eternal apart from God. There can be no eternal life if we are separated from God. Deadly sin, Mortal sin separates us from God, and we lose our eternal life.
When we speak of the Capital Sin of Pride, we refer to the sin that is the “Mother of all other sins.” The Bible tells us that Pride was the first sin, committed by Satan, the “Father of Lies” and the “Prince of this World”. Satan wanted to be more powerful than God and to dominate all mankind. We should all have a healthy fear of Pride for its power to destroy us.
Pride is a powerful sin. Each time we decide in favor of ourselves, egotistically preferring ourselves over God or others, we experience the sin of Pride. The sin that Adam and Eve both committed by being disobedient and rebellious, cost them their eternal life.
Through the sin of pride we act completely independent of God, as if we are the only judges of our actions and decisions. We prefer ourselves above God and others, as did Satan and Adam and Eve. Our pride makes us morally blind. Let’s examine some examples of pride here in our own community.
• When a person chooses not to come to Mass with the community on Sundays, isn’t that due to selfish Pride? If they are parents, then they are also teaching their children to choose themselves over God.
• “Pride of Superiority” and “Mental pride” occur when we say, “I know it all. I know better than others what is best for me.” Or there is “pride of intelligence” when a person says they are more intelligent than others. This is blindness! We see this come into to play, for example when young people ignore or make fun of their teachers or of police, or priests, or whoever is in authority. Or when people feel that rules are for everyone else, but the rules don’t apply to me. Pride also is behind the rejection of the teaching authority of the Church, the Magisterium. We have the advantage of a teaching tradition that is 2,000 years old, but people choose to ignore it, or minimize it because they know best.
• When the husband always leaves his wife on weekends leaving her to take care of the children and take care of the house, isn’t this also selfish pride? Machismo is selfish pride. Or when the husband arrives home from work and begins to drink beer all weekend, isn’t this just selfishness. Some men begin drinking from the moment they arrive home to escape or avoid family responsibilities.
• Pride of selfish ambition happens when one seeks to advance himself or herself above others, to seek places of honor, praise and recognition.
• Pride of vanity occurs when one seeks to stand out above others through their spending too much on clothes and make-up. Beauty pageants and magazines feed this selfishness in young girls, placing too much importance upon the body. We also see a form of this vanity when a person declares, “It is my body, and I can do with it whatever I wish.” “Don’t I have a right to do with my body whatever I want?” Then for example, we see a lot of women’s skin, a lot of cleavage, or short skirts all revealing too much skin, inviting too much attention, and selfishly causing temptation in others. After all, “It’s the fashion”, they say, and “It’s my body, I can do whatever I wish, because it is my body.” And that is how modesty dies.
• Or we see tattoos everywhere, or body piercings everywhere, including ears, noses, lips, tongues, belly buttons and wherever else a piercing can go. Pride of vanity is all around us. We are told it is just fashion, but it is really a form of vanity and pride.
• We see this expressed, also, in the practice of free sex, living together and sleeping together outside of marriage. “It’s my body, and I can do whatever I want.” One extreme of this attitude is abortion. Never mind that a human life has been created, because, “It’s my body, and I can do what ever I want”; even destroy another human’s life. There is a lot of destruction of human values and human life as a result of pride, selfishness and vanity. But listen to St. Paul speaking of this to the Corinthians,
The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body;
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?
But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him.
… the immoral person sins against his own body.
Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been purchased at a price.
Therefore glorify God in your body. (1 COR 6:13C-15A, 17-20)
If you are having some problems with any of these items, then you may be suffering from the Capital Sin of Pride. Be on guard! Be very careful. This sin is deadly. The more you cling to it the harder it is to return to God.
There are remedies for the Sin of Pride. It may appear to be a contradiction, but the humble man or woman knows their sin of pride, and seriously attempts to overcome it with deliberate humility. The remedy requires a serious, mature and ongoing examination of conscience. Examples of humility are of great value. Read the lives of the Saints and you will see many examples of humility and humble acts. Ask God for help to see your sins. Go to frequent Confession. Do your penance, gladly, humbly. Repent and believe in the Gospel.