One of my brothers in the seminary once said (jokingly), “I’m very proud of my humility”! In our Gospel today, Jesus matches the prideful against the humble person, and gives us a lesson that will serve us well in our lives. We must seek always humility. He cautions us that this is a danger as much for the person of faith as it is for the faithless. When we take our faith-life and prayer into our own hands (as we should) there is a very real temptation and possibility for us to become prideful of what we do. We may not always see this, but what we are in fact doing when this happens is distancing ourselves from God. I know I am guilty of this myself, and I usually fall in sin when I am proud of how well I am doing spiritually. Although I shall never like sinning, it humbles me, and I need to return to confession. As a confessor, what I can say is that I am deeply moved by the experience, because those who come before the Lord with me as their confessor are themselves humble. Confession is a Sacrament of Humility! If we are contrite and ready to amend our lives, we are humble as the tax collector who comes before the Lord in shame and sorrow.
Confession is also a necessary ingredient for a good and holy vocation. Prideful men are going to have a hard time being kind, compassionate, understanding and merciful priests. If we struggle greatly with pride, it doesn’t mean that we’re not called to priesthood and consecrated life, it just means we need to bring more humility (through confession) into our lives. The only thing which defeats pride as a vice is the virtue of humility. The greatest way to grow in this virtue is through contrite confessions with a firm and ongoing purpose to amend our ways.