The death of someone we know always reminds us that we are still alive — perhaps for some purpose which we ought to re‑examine. ~Mignon McLaughlin
I was up early today for some college football and baseball. While listening to MICHIGAN-Illinois game, I was able to put the finishing touches on another power point for the medical ethics course next month. MICHIGAN won 41-8 and next up is MSU. At Happy Valley....Penn State beat ohio state! ^_^
The Maryknoll China Teachers came over at 9:00 for mass at my apartment.
I took off for Changchun at noon to have mass with the foreign community at 2:30.
After that mass I had dinner with Nurse Li and Wang Wei and heard about Hongmei's Beijing experience, graduate school ambitions and the hospital's evaluation!
Before heading back to Jilin we stopped at Zoo Coffee for coffee and more talks.
My favorite sports columnist Drew Sharp passed away at the age of 56 in Detroit on Friday. R.I.P.
Today's Gospel and some comments:
Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14
Prayer has been called “an hour of truth.” But it has to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. No doubt the Pharisee was telling the truth: he was living an upright life, he was doing everything he claimed to be doing. But he was not praying; he was giving God an inventory of his good deeds: “I fast twice a week, I give 10% of my income….” At any rate he could not be accused of having a low self-image. He prefaced his remarks by saying, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers….” His high opinion of himself depended on his low opinion of others.
Yes, we have to wear that cap and see if it fits. Most of us would be too clever to boast openly of the things we do, but there are subtle ways of putting others down in order to make ourselves appear better. How does it work? I am not sure what I am in myself (or I am afraid to look), so I develop an eye for the worst in other people. It allows me to feel, “I'm not as bad as they are, or at least I'm no worse.” I am aware of all the time I have wasted, all the big and small acts of cowardice and meanness, all the betrayals: I feel shabby, so I focus on other people’s rags. This is not a decent way to live, and deep down I know it.
We live nowadays in a culture of suspicion. There is a generalized suspicion that goodness is hypocritical. This clears the coast for anyone who wants to belittle others and what they do. The trouble is that there's a half-truth in it. A lot of ‘virtues’ actually come from the opposite of virtue; they are attempts to prove that I am not what I am. Cowards become daredevils, lonely people become gregarious, weak people look for subtle ways of getting power. ‘Virtues’ can be over-reactions to the unpalatable truth of what I am. Everything hides its opposite within itself - that is, if there has been no real transformation, but only dissimulation.
But what a dead-end this suspicion is! I may appear very clever if I am able to unmask false virtue, but if it means that I don’t believe in virtue any more, then I am the real loser. What drives me now is not a passion for truth and honesty, but the Pharisee’s self-congratulation: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people.”
Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” Love your opposite. Then you cannot clothe yourself with their vices. You may even see that their vices are sometimes the unrepressed form of your own virtues, and you can learn a kind of compassion and encouragement instead of criticism. It is always useful to ask yourself, Why is this person MY enemy? He touches something painful in me, reminds me of something I would rather forget. In the end I may even learn to say, “God, me merciful to me, a sinner!” That is the sincerest form of prayer: it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.