Pride

Friends in Christ, in the first reading today, we see that Paul and Barnabas healed a lame man. The crowds seeing this called them gods. The apostles however insisted that they were not gods, but that the people should worship the true, living, God. Paul and Barnabas rightly ascribed everything, even that miracle, to God, not to themselves. The psalmist today also urges us to give God the glory, not ourselves.
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But the danger is always there, for us to seek praise for ourselves apart from God, and this is pride. The desert fathers spoke often of this demon of pride. Temptations of the passions are obvious, they said. But for pride, it is difficult to fight against, because it takes many forms.
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There can be pride in our way of speaking, in what we say, and in our silences; in our work there can be pride, and there can even be pride in our prayers. We can speak in such a subtle way, as to imply that others are not as insightful as ourself. We could show restraint in our speech so that others think that we are humble. We could have a secret pride because we have surely said more prayers today than most people, and none of my relatives ever fast so well as I do. In an instant, pride can destroy our good work, because it ascribes accomplishments and talents to ourselves instead of to God.
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When pride cannot seduce us by vanity in wearing fancy clothes, it provokes us to use simpler clothes to show others of our superior, simple good-taste. When we avoid the pride of bragging, we can fall into thinking that we have become holy.
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One of the great desert fathers was St. John Cassian. These monks lived as hermits in the desert, seeking the highest degrees of holiness. But he tells us how once he saw that pride could utterly humiliate a good brother monk. He went to visit a brother in his hut, and as he approached the door, he heard him speaking inside. It seemed that pride had driven that monk utterly out of his mind, for he had convinced himself that he was a Deacon, and imagined he was speaking to the catechumens at Mass.
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Cassian knocked at the door. ‘How long were you standing at the door,’ asked the brother. With a smile he said, ‘I was there long enough to hear that you had become a Deacon!’ When the brother heard this he fell ashamed at his feet and asked that he would pray for him.
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Cassian tells us that he only relates this incident to show us to what depths of stupidity the demon of pride can bring us.

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