"The other man, however, kept his distance, not even daring to raise his eyes to heaven." —Luke 18:13
The humble tax collector in today's Gospel passage did not presume he was worthy to approach God. He saw his position in relation to God correctly and realized his only option was to throw himself upon the mercy of God. He hoped in God; otherwise he would not have entered the Temple to pray, but knowing his unworthiness he remained at a distance. Jesus was pleased with this man's humility, and proclaimed him "justified" in God's sight (Lk 18:14).
This parable is very familiar to Catholics. Many Catholics imitate the tax collector by sitting in the back of the church. Many don't venture out of this "in the background" position, to the point that instead of staying back out of reverence, they rather "hold back" due to a lack of humble faith (see Heb 10:38-39). So ingrained is this habit that it's as if Catholics use it as an excuse not to serve God. Could this be a practice that originated in humility but gradually became an exercise of pride?
True humility means that sometimes we must let our light shine before men (Mt 5:16), sit in the front row at church, step out in leadership in obedience to the Lord, witness to Jesus regardless of our weakness, speak up for justice, pray in front of abortion clinics and be a public witness for life, etc. Humility does not mean invisibility. It means humbly acknowledging that the gifts of the Holy Spirit working in us are far greater than our human limitations.
Prayer: Spirit of the Living God, melt me and dissolve my pride, mold me as You see fit, fill me with Your grace, and use me always to build Your kingdom.
Promise: "For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled while he who humbles himself shall be exalted." —Lk 18:14
Praise: St. Francis of Paola, like the humble tax collector, lived a life of humility to such an extent that he founded a religious community and called it the Minims, which means "the least."
Reference: (This teaching was submitted by a member of our editorial team.)
Rescript: †Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, XXX 11, 2011
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