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Others may look up to them, but they ever look up to God; others may speak of their merits, but they only speak of their defects. Aloysius; so, on the other hand, was it with St. Ignatius; so was it with St. Rose, the youngest of the saints, who, as a child, submitted her tender frame to the most amazing penances; so was it with St. This, you see, my Brethren, is very different from that merely general acknowledgment of human guilt, and of the need of expiation, contained in those old and popular religions, which have before now occupied, or still occupy, the world.

Or it is the purification of the worshipper, not so much personal as ritual, before he makes his offering, and an act of introduction to his religious service. All such practices indeed are remnants of true religion, and tokens and witnesses of it, useful both in themselves and in their import; but they do not rise to the explicitness and the fulness of the Christian doctrine.

As their thoughts passed on from the ignorant and erring multitude to the select specimens of mankind, they left the notion of guilt behind, and they pictured for themselves an idea of truth and wisdom, perfect, indefectible, and self-sufficient. It was a sort of virtue without imperfection, which took pleasure in contemplating itself, which needed nothing, and which was, from its own internal excellence, sure of a reward. Their descriptions, their stories of good and religious men, are often beautiful, and admit of an instructive interpretation; but in themselves they have this great blot, that they make no mention of sin, and that they speak as if shame and humiliation were no properties of the virtuous.

I will remind you, my Brethren, of a very beautiful story, which you have read in a writer of antiquity; and the more beautiful it is, the more it is fitted for my present purpose, for the defect in it will come out the more strongly by the very contrast, viz. A celebrated Greek sage once paid a visit to a prosperous king of Lydia, who, after showing him all his greatness and his glory, asked him whom he considered to have the happiest lot, of all men whom he had known.

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On this, the philosopher, passing by the monarch himself, named a countryman of his own, as fulfilling his typical idea of human perfection. The most blessed of men, he said, was Tellus of Athens, for he lived in a flourishing city, and was prospered in his children, and in their families; and then at length when war ensued with a border state, he took his place in the battle, repelled the enemy, and died gloriously, being buried at the public expense where he fell, and receiving public honours. Now perhaps you will ask me, my Brethren, whether this heathen idea of religion be not really higher than that which I have called pre-eminently Christian; for surely to obey in simple tranquillity and unsolicitous confidence, is the noblest conceivable state of the creature, and the most acceptable worship he can pay to the Creator.

Doubtless it is the noblest and most acceptable worship; such has ever been the worship of the angels; such is the worship now of the spirits of the just made perfect; such will be the worship of the whole company of the glorified after the general resurrection. But we are engaged in considering the actual state of man, as found in this world; and I say, considering what he is, any standard of duty, which does not convict him of real and multiplied sins, and of incapacity to please God of his own strength, is untrue; and any rule of life, which leaves him contented with himself, without fear, without anxiety, without humiliation, is deceptive; it is the blind leading the blind: yet such, in one shape or other, is the religion of the whole earth, beyond the pale of the Church.

Thus he apprehends part, and part only, of the moral law; has scarcely any idea at all of sanctity; and, instead of tracing actions to their source, which is the motive, and judging them thereby, he measures them for the most part by their effects and their outward aspect. Such is the way with the multitude of men everywhere and at all times; they do not see the Image of Almighty God before them, and ask themselves what He wishes: if once they did this, they would begin to see how much He requires, and they would earnestly come to Him, both to be pardoned for what they do wrong, and for the power to do better.

And, for the same reason that they do not please Him, they succeed in pleasing themselves. Hence, they become both self-satisfied and self-sufficient;—they think they know just what they ought to do, and that they do it all; and in consequence they are very well content with themselves, and rate their merit very high, and have no fear at all of any future scrutiny into their conduct, which may befall them, though their religion mainly lies in certain outward observances, and not a great number even of them.

He looked upon himself with great complacency, for the very reason that the standard was so low, and the range so narrow, which he assigned to his duties towards God and man. He professed, indeed, to pay thanks to God, but he hardly apprehended the existence of any direct duties on his part towards his Maker. He thought he did all that God required, if he satisfied public opinion.

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His alms and fastings were not done in penance, but because the world asked for them; penance would have implied the consciousness of sin; whereas it was only Publicans, and such as they, who had anything to be forgiven. And these indeed were the outcasts of society, and despicable; but no account lay against men of well-regulated minds such as his: men who were well-behaved, decorous, consistent, and respectable.

He thanked God he was a Pharisee, and not a penitent. They framed a code of morals which they could without trouble obey; and then they were content with it and with themselves. Virtue, according to Xenophon, one of the best principled and most religious of their writers, and one who had seen a great deal of the world, and had the opportunity of bringing together in one the highest thoughts of many schools and countries,—virtue, according to him, consists mainly in command of the appetites and passions, and in serving others in order that they may serve us.

He says, in the well known Fable, called the choice of Hercules, that Vice has no real enjoyment even of those pleasures which it aims at; that it eats before it is hungry, and drinks before it is thirsty, and slumbers before it is wearied. It never hears, he says, that sweetest of voices, its own praise; it never sees that greatest luxury among sights, its own good deeds. It enfeebles the bodily frame of the young, and the intellect of the old. Now this age is as removed in distance, as in character, from that of the Greek philosopher; yet who will say that the religion which it acts upon is very different from the religion of the heathen?

Of course I understand well, that it might know, and that it will say, a great many things foreign and contrary to heathenism. I am well aware that the theology of this age is very different from what it was two thousand years ago. I know men profess a great deal, and boast that they are Christians, and speak of Christianity as being a religion of the heart; but, when we put aside words and professions, and try to discover what their religion is, we shall find, I fear, that the great mass of men in fact get rid of all religion that is inward; that they lay no stress on acts of faith, hope, and charity, on simplicity of intention, purity of motive, or mortification of the thoughts; that they confine themselves to two or three virtues, superficially practised; that they know not the words contrition, penance, and pardon; and that they think and argue that, after all, if a man does his duty in the world, according to his vocation, he cannot fail to go to heaven, however little he may do besides, nay, however much, in other matters, he may do that is undeniably unlawful.

Such as I love, I rebuke and chastise; be zealous, therefore, and do penance. Yes, my Brethren, it is the ignorance of our understanding, it is our spiritual blindness, it is our banishment from the presence of Him who is the source and the standard of all Truth, which is the cause of this meagre, heartless religion of which men are commonly so proud.

Had we any proper insight into things as they are, had we any real apprehension of God as He is, of ourselves as we are, we should never dare to serve Him without fear, or to rejoice unto Him without trembling. And it is the removal of this veil which is spread between our eyes and heaven, it is the pouring in upon the soul of the illuminating grace of the New Covenant, which makes the religion of the Christian so different from that of the various human rites and philosophies, which are spread over the earth.

The Catholic saints alone confess sin, because the Catholic saints alone see God. It is the sight of God, revealed to the eye of faith, that makes us hideous to ourselves, from the contrast which we find ourselves to present to that great God at whom we look. It is the vision of Him in His infinite gloriousness, the All-holy, the All-beautiful, the All-perfect, which makes us sink into the earth with self-contempt and self-abhorrence.

We are contented with ourselves till we contemplate Him. Why is it, I say, that the moral code of the world is so precise and well-defined? Why is the worship of reason so calm? Why was the religion of classic heathenism so joyous? Why is the framework of civilized society all so graceful and so correct? Why, on the other hand, is there so much of emotion, so much of conflicting and alternating feeling, so much that is high, so much that is abased, in the devotion of Christianity?

It is because the Christian, and the Christian alone, has a revelation of God; it is because he has upon his mind, in his heart, on his conscience, the idea of one who is Self-dependent, who is from Everlasting, who is Incommunicable. He knows that One alone is holy, and that His own creatures are so frail in comparison of Him, that they would dwindle and melt away in His presence, did He not uphold them by His power. He knows that there is just One Being, in whose hand lies his own happiness, his own sanctity, his own life, and hope, and salvation. He knows that there is One to whom he owes every thing, and against whom he can have no plea or remedy.

All things are nothing before Him; the highest beings do but worship Him the more; the holiest beings are such, only because they have a greater portion of Him. Where has fled all that comeliness which heretofore he thought embellished him? What is he but some vile reptile, which ought to shrink aside out of the light of day? This was the feeling of St. Paul before his martyrdom:—not that one of them may not have, what another has not, but that one and all have nothing but what comes from Him, and are as nothing before Him, who is all in all.

For us, my dear Brethren, whose duties lie in this seat of learning and science, may we never be carried away by any undue fondness for any human branch of study, so as to be forgetful that our true wisdom, and nobility, and strength, consist in the knowledge of Almighty God. Nature and man are our studies, but God is higher than all. It is easy to lose Him in His works. It is easy to become over-attached to our own pursuit, to substitute it for religion, and to make it the fuel of pride. You might say she was all puffed up. What other things do people brag about? After each child's answer, blow up the balloon a little more.

What will happen if the bragging continues? The balloon will burst. We can be so filled up with ourselves that we're of no use to anyone else. Say: Look at this other balloon. It could be a beautiful decoration as long as we don't let it get too big. This is what Jesus teaches us in the Gospel this week. Ask for two volunteers to read today's Gospel. The first volunteer will read Luke ; the second will read Luke Ask: Why did God reject the prayer of the first man, the Pharisee?

That man didn't think he needed God. Why did the tax collector's prayer please God? He admitted he had done wrong things and asked God's forgiveness. When we realize we need God, we let God's beauty into our lives. Say: Humility is a virtue that is not always popular today. What do you think it means to be humble? Accept all reasonable answers.

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When we are humble, we recognize our dependence and need for God. We acknowledge that God is the source of any talents that we have, and we recognize that any good that we are able to do is because of God's grace working in us. Can you think of some examples of people who are truly humble? Allow time for response and discussion.

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Conclude in prayer together asking that God will grace each of you with the gift of humility. Pray today's responsorial psalm, or pray together the Act of Contrition. Young people at this age can be very competitive. Competition, by its very nature, encourages one to draw attention to oneself and can tempt one to excessive pride.

Gospel Reflection

This Sunday's Gospel offers a good antidote to pride—humility. Explain that the senses allow us to detect stimuli, helping us identify danger and enjoy the world around us. Ask whether any of the young people have ever had dental work that required a shot to numb the area needing work. Point out that the chemical injected by the dentist numbs the nerves, blocking the sense of touch. Tell the young people that we also have spiritual senses that allow us to perceive the presence of God in ourselves, in others, and in our world.

Explain that if our spiritual senses become numb, we become unable to sense the presence of God in our lives. Say: Our Catholic tradition points out seven sins that are especially dangerous because they dull our spiritual senses. Because these sins are so harmful, we call them the capital or deadly sins.

They are pride, greed, envy, anger, gluttony, lust, and sloth. In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus is warning us about the sin of pride.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

See if you can identify which character in the story is guilty of this sin. Ask: Which character in the story is guilty of the sin of pride?


He is too full of himself. What virtue, or good quality, does the tax collector show that is the opposite of pride? Explain that humility is the act of seeing ourselves as we are, accepting faults and limitations and not thinking that we are better than others. Point out that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a perfect example of humility. Say: When Mary found out that she was going to become the mother of Jesus, she did not react with pride.

30th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

Instead, she humbly surrendered to God's will and praised God for blessing her with this gift. Conclude by praying aloud a Hail Mary. Guide the young people to pray for an increase in humility. In the family, one sometimes observes a level of competition between children for parent attention, for acknowledgement of their abilities. Somehow, children seem to internalize that the attention given to one member of the family diminishes the attention given to another.

In this way, children can often sound like the Pharisee in Jesus' parable. Parents who provide continual reminders to their children that they are loved for who they are, not for what they do, help children develop a healthy spirituality.

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  7. As a family, talk about what it means to compare oneself to another. Discuss whether it is helpful to compare oneself to another. In what ways might this be positive? As a family, read today's Gospel, Luke Discuss: What was wrong about the prayer of the Pharisee? How can we emulate the prayer of the tax collector? Pray together as a family in thanksgiving for the blessing that is each member of your family. Pray that your family will be free from unhealthy competition. Pray in thanksgiving that God's love for us is unconditional.

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