to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—
greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week,
and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”] (Lk. 18:9-14)
When asked what were the greatest three virtues, St. Augustine replied with one, three times over; humility, humility, humility. Why? The virtue of humility is the exact opposite of the vice of pride, the first and greatest sin. Adam and Eve were tempted into thinking God was holding something back from them that was rightfully theirs. Instead of asking God for this, they reached for it themselves. They thought they didn’t need God.
In our Gospel passage we see just why pride is considered the greatest sin and its destructive nature when it develops into a vice. The Pharisee claims for himself salvation and righteousness based purely on his external obedience to the Mosaic Law. He has no need of God because he is so good. His compounded sins of pride have developed into the vice of pride which prevents him from even recognizing who he is or his need for God’s mercy.
The virtue of humility is defined as the proper estimation of oneself. Humility is not thinking less of ourselves or putting ourselves down. Humility is the recognition of who we are in reality. Everything we are; our strengths, our weaknesses, our talents, our limitations. In relation to God, humility helps us to recognize that despite how flawlessly we might obey God’s commandments we still are in need of His mercy. Humility helps us join the tax collector in saying, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
Take a few minutes today to pray for increase of the virtue of humility in your own life. Thank God for creating you the way you are. Thank Him for your family, friends, etc… Then ask God for forgiveness for those times in which you haven’t been grateful for those things He’s given you by what you’ve thought, said, and/or did.