Pride

Latin Mass:  Feast of Christ the King
Friends in Christ, Today, in the traditional calendar, is the Feast of Christ the King. In the Gospel of St. Mark, Our Lord asked the Apostles, ‘who do you say that I am?’ This is the question that continues to vex the world to this day. Who is Jesus Christ? Is he the King, or not. This question as we read was on the mind of Pontius Pilate as well: ‘Who are you Jesus?’ ‘Are you a king?’ St. Paul will declare to the world: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend….and every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.
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Now we would all here say that Jesus is Lord, for sure. But if we examine ourselves, we may find that there are times when he is not really our Lord and King.
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The first sin of Adam and Eve was that of pride: ‘You will be like gods,’ said the serpent. This temptation, to be a rival to God is the sin of Pride.
Pride in the world today, almost seems to be a virtue.
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I’ve noticed the change in sports for example. Years ago, if a Walter Payton or other player scored a touchdown, the player then showed reserve and humility, handing the ball to the Ref, as if to say, ‘I’m just one member of the team doing my job.’
Today, everyone’s a hotdog, pumping fists in the air, jumping around, as if it’s all about them. It seems that pride is considered a virtue today.
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But for all of us, pride has a way of slipping in, no one is free of it. In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis[i] says that pride is one sin that everyone loathes when they see it in another, but hardly recognize it in themselves. No fault makes us more unpopular, and no fault is harder to see in ourselves, than pride.
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Impurity, anger, greed, drunkenness, are nothing in comparison to pride. Pride leads to every other vice, it is the sin by which we put ourselves on the throne instead of Jesus Christ.
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Now pride is essentially competitive. If we wish to see pride in ourselves, look for our competitive spirit, which can be very subtle. How angry do I get when someone snubs me, or patronizes me, or refuses to give me credit? If I get angry, I have pride.
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Each person’s pride is in competition with the others. I wanted to be the center of attention, but someone else was. I am angry. Pride. I really like that certain necklace, I really want it; is it because we appreciate it’s design, or is it because with it, I will outshine others? People are not proud of being rich, or smart, or good-looking; they are proud of being RICHER, SMARTER, MORE good-looking than others. Pride is competitive.
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Pride can even creep into the spiritual life, to make our religion false. I am praying secretly in my room, but I could be thinking in the back of my mind, ‘Few people probably pray as much as I do.’ I give alms anonymously to the poor. Good. But I may feel in my heart that few others give in such a way as myself.
The competition of pride can be very subtle. There are loud and arrogant men full of the pride of vainglory, but their quiet spouse who is convinced of her moral superiority could be guilty of greater pride.
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A Harvard psychologist says, The neurotic[ii] person is living a life of extreme self-centeredness. The very nature of the neurotic disorder is tied to pride. If the person is hypersensitive, resentful, or fault-finding, he may be afraid of looking bad in competitive situations. If the person is chronically indecisive, he is showing fear that he may do the wrong thing and be discredited. If he is over-scrupulous and self-critical, he may be fishing for the praise of others. ‘Therefore, he says, most neuroses are rooted in the sin of pride.
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Ironically, it is sometimes as a result of God’s blessings and our success, that pride comes. Recall in the scriptures, how Uzziah succeeded so wonderfully as a good king. He sought the Lord, and listened to his spiritual director, Zechariah. But then as he became famous and successful, he stopped trusting in God and trusted in himself. Pride ruined him.[iii]
Uzziah’s mistake was to forget who the real KING is: the Lord. Too often we wish to put ourselves on his throne, and lord ourselves over others.
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Power is what pride really enjoys. Power over others is what makes a person feel superior. A boss who loves his power, or the school bully who lives for power.
A woman who uses her beauty to manipulate her admirers, who enjoys ‘turning heads,’ is often not driven at all by her sexual instinct, but by power and pride.
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Pride is the main cause of misery in the world, not the other sins.
Vanity for example, is a child of pride, but it is not the worst. The vain person wants praise and admiration too much, but the vain person at least cares what other people think. The person full of the blackest pride, looks down on others so much, that he doesn’t even care what they think, he knows he is superior. This is diabolical. Such black pride may even act as a check on vanity: he thinks: ‘I am a superior person, and such a superior person does not give in to vanity.’
Other vices and sins come through our animal nature, but pride comes through our spiritual nature, it is more deadly.
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Again, C. S. Lewis asks the question: ‘How is it, that people who are eaten up with pride, can say they believe in God?’ It is because their “god” is not really Christ the King. Their idea of God is false. Their invented God sits up there and approves of them, approves of their superiority and wonderfulness.
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A test for us to see if we are delusional with pride, is to ask if our religion makes us feel superior to others. And to ask ourselves if we are not sometimes proud; if we say that we are not, then we can be sure that we are.
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Of course the antidote to pride is humility, and we need look no further for an example of humility, than the Blessed Virgin.
When Jesus was teaching one day in a house, although she is the mother, Mary did not presume to enter and interrupt, ‘instead it says, she remained outside.
Mary, help us to be more humble, and make your Son truly the King of our life.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. John Vianney]

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[i] Many quotes and ideas here are from C. S. Lewis, ‘Mere Christianity,’ chapter 8.

[ii] 4. Gordon Allport, quoted in Solomon Schimmel, The Seven Deadly Sins, p. 28.

[iii] Good ideas on this subject from on-line article: Pride and Humility, by Thomas A. Tarrants, C. S. Lewis Institute

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