Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
(Sirach 35:12-14,16-18; Psalm 34:2-3,17-19,23; 2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18; Luke 18:9-14)
Living a Life Grounded in Godly Humility
The one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:14)
Self-confidence is a virtue in business, in our families, and in our parishes. Think about St. Paul. He was very confident in his abilities. He was a fearless evangelist. He established churches everywhere he went. He taught, wrote, and performed miracles. Without self-confidence, Paul would not have been able to accomplish all that he did. A modern-day psychologist might describe Paul as having a “strong ego.”
But that’s a lot different from a person who has a “large ego.”
People with strong egos have let life’s ups and downs reveal their strengths and weaknesses—and they have learned how to use their strengths in a productive way. Paul was bold and pushy. He liked to get his way. He made a lot of mistakes. But he learned from them. He let them teach him humility. He even spoke about how proud and self-centered he was before he met the Lord (Philippians 3:3-10).
By contrast, people with large egos are self-centered. They are always looking for adulation and recognition. They elevate themselves over others and look down on the people they consider inferior to themselves. The Pharisee in today’s parable had a large ego. He lived a moral life. He fasted, and he gave money to the poor. But he let his goodness go to his head, as he looked down on the repentant tax collector. His ego was so large that he didn’t have room for anyone else—not even the Lord—in his life.
God wants us to be confident. He wants us to develop the gifts that he has given to us to their fullest potential so that we can push forward and build the kingdom. But we have to watch out for the trap of pride. Being confident is a good thing. But we always have to be sure that our confidence is grounded in humility, not self-glory. That’s the secret to having a strong ego, not a large one.
“Lord, teach me true humility and strength of character.”
(Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing us to use meditations from their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission. The Word Among Us Mass Edition contains all the readings and a meditation for each of the daily and Sunday Masses.)
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- In the first reading, we hear that “the one who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens.” How “willing” is your response to God? To what extent do you respond just out of duty versus responding out of an experience of God’s love and mercy toward you? How would you describe the difference between these two ways of responding to God?
- The responsorial psalm say that God hears the cries of the “lowly,” “just,” “brokenhearted,” and those who are “crushed in spirit.” Why do you think this is so? Do you know of some people who are going through difficult circumstances right now? What additional steps can you take individually, or with others, to reach out to them?
- In the letter to Timothy, Paul uses a sport’s metaphor when he says these words: “I have completed well; I have finished the race,” that is, God’s call for his life. When you look at your life, how important is it to have “competed well” and “finished the race” God has given you? Why?
- In the Gospel, the tax collector, whose prayer was humble and lowly, “went home justified” by God, while the Pharisee did not. What are some specific qualities of humility in the short, but powerful, prayer of the tax collector? How could they be incorporated by you into your own prayers?
- The meditation describes the difference between “strong egos” and “large egos.” How would you describe the difference? How do these differences apply to you?
- Take some time now to pray and ask the Lord to show you the difference between true humility and false humility, and for the grace to live a life of true humility. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as a starting point.