Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for all of us as Christians, as God’s people to be full of humility and virtues, and not to be prideful and arrogant. We are all called to open our hearts and minds to the Lord and allow Him to guide our path. We should not allow our ego and pride to mislead us down the wrong path. We must always remind ourselves that we exist by the grace of God and everything we do, are ultimately to glorify God and to serve Him.
In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Sirach, on the matter of humility before God and how the faithful should act and behave in this world, with humility and obedience to God, and not to be filled with ambition or self-aggrandising attitudes. As Christians, all of us are challenged to put aside the temptations of greed and pride, of the many allures of worldly pleasures, power, glory, fame and human praises. This is of course easier said than done, as temptations will always be abound in trying to steer us away from the path of God’s righteousness and into the path of selfishness and wickedness.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and the guests regarding how some of the Pharisees were seeking the most important places on the dinner table, as with other events and gatherings. The Lord highlighted that we should not do such things, and should not seek the pride of honour, desire renown and compete for prestige and honour with each other, or indulge on our status, our privileges and other things which can lead us down the slippery path into sin and damnation. That is because pride and ego, desire and greed can easily lead us into doing things for our own selfish aims and purposes.
Contextually, we should understand that the Pharisees and the other respected members of the community were at the apex of the Jewish society, together with the king and his nobles. The Pharisees were greatly respected as well as feared because of their great intellectual abilities, being those among the few who were educated and had the knowledge and understanding of the Torah or the Hebrew Scriptures. They were also the ones who were entrusted with the maintenance and preservation of the Law of God as passed down from the time of Moses through the generations, adopting an especially strict interpretation of the Law.
The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often made a show of their piety and faith by praying openly and loudly in the public places, wearing their wide prayer shawls and showing their obedience to the Law, while at the same time also shunning and criticising those whom they deemed to be less than worthy than they were, which in this case was essentially everyone else besides them, and in particular, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the people who were possessed with evil spirits and who suffered from illnesses and sickness, from various conditions and maladies. Those people were viewed with disdain and even open hostility from the same Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.
While not all of the Pharisees were living their lives in that manner, but quite a number of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had the same attitude towards their faith. They focused more on appearances and external applications of the Law, and misused their privileged positions among the community in order to advance their own egoistic aims and ambitions. They thought that their righteousness and their piety made them to deserve the grace and salvation, honour and praise from God and man alike, but they had forgotten that everyone is equal before God, and their attitude, their boastfulness and their hardline attitude in fact turned people away from the faith and made it difficult for some to come back towards the Lord.
In our second reading today, from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard of the words of the author of this Epistle that all of us the faithful have been called to come into the presence of God Most High, Who through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, have formed a New Covenant with us mankind, with Christ as the Mediator of this New Covenant. It is by God’s grace that we have received His pardon, His mercy, His compassionate love and care. It is through the works of His Son, that by His suffering and death on the Cross, by which we mankind have been made partakers of the New Covenant He has established with us, that will last forever.
What this highlights is that, while all of us have to be active in living our lives with concrete actions, with efforts based on our faith, but we do not justify ourselves based on those works and deeds alone. It is God working through us, as we carry out His will and as we do our actions in this life that allow us to come to the grace of God and become worthy of Him. Without God, and without His love and providence, and without faith, then all of our actions are empty and meaningless. Like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, while they were outwardly pious and faithful, but as the Lord Himself pointed out, that their hearts were not filled with the love for God, but with love for themselves and their pride and ego.
That is why, on this Sunday, all of us are reminded through all these passages from the Sacred Scriptures, that we should always be vigilant and be careful with the temptations of our desires, our pride and ego, all of which can mislead us down the wrong path, in causing us to do things that are contrary to the will of God. Each one of us should always strive to remain focused on the Lord and remind ourselves of what we have been called to do as God’s followers and disciples. We have to restrain the temptations of our flesh, the desire for pleasures and for false happiness and other temptations that are aplenty all around us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us always strive to be humble and to do God’s will in each and every one of our actions, making good use of whatever opportunities that He has given each one of us so that we will not end up falling into temptation, or falter in our journey towards Him because we end up doing things to satisfy our selfish wants and desires first instead of doing what God wants us to do. And the more responsibilities we have, the greater the position we have in life, in whatever achievement we gained, in whatever honour we receive, let us not allow our pride and ego to overcome us as they had done to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.
Instead, as the Lord had reminded us through the Scriptures, the greater we are, the humbler we should become, and there is no greater example for that than the Lord Himself, the Mediator of the New Covenant, Who although is the Almighty, All-Powerful God, willingly humbled and emptied Himself of His infinite glory, to be stripped and to be scourged, punished and broken for our sake, as He laid suffering and dying on the Cross. The Lord’s most loving sacrifice on the Cross is truly a reminder for us, of the virtue of Christian humility which the Lord Himself had shown us. At the Last Supper, the Lord has also washed His disciples’ feet, and told them to do the same as He had done, reminding us that as Christians, as God’s followers, we have to put God and others ahead of ourselves.
Let us all therefore do our best to live our lives with Christian virtues, particularly that of humility, so that we may draw ever closer to God and also be inspiration for one another, in striving to live our lives more worthily for God and His glory. May all of us distance ourselves from the dangerous temptations of pride and greed, excise from us that pride and greed, that ego and ambition, and instead, serve the Lord humbly at all times, and do our best to glorify God by our lives at each and every opportunity. Amen.