Pride – this is such a strange creature. If I have it I can’t see it. If I don’t I won’t really know as well. Usually I’ll find out when I don’t really want to find out . One thing is for sure, that is we are in constant battle with the temptation to see ourselves better than another. Our scorn often is not on our lips (though it’s not far from it), but hidden in some corner of our hearts. What ever trick we have in our sleeves, God sees through us no matter how many layers of “looking good or godly” clothing we put on.
As Lent begins tonight this Ash Wednesday, even the symbol of ashes is signifying repentance and humility before God. “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner” is not a nice religious line we want to utter because it’s the “Christian” thing to say but a genuine confession that this is the messy me that I am – a person broken by the choices I’ve made. There’s more , I am a sinner not because of the distance I have by not reaching the ideals I’ve set before me – I am a sinner because of the distance I have between God and me as well as my neighbor and me. It’s complicated because this state is compounded by the fact is I am also one who is sinned against as well. And together in our most honest moments, we recognize how much mercy we need and how much humbling is required of us.
Jesus is not looking for people who have everything sorted out whether it’s their religious beliefs or lifestyle practices. Jesus sees right through whatever we might be tempted to put up in order to “look better” than we really are. Since there’s not need to hide, I’m using whatever energy I have left to simply pray (and perhaps beat my chest a little) — “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner … I’m seeing how you are humbling me Lord.” Then, we pause and hear his voice gently penetrating our being saying, “There is no barrier between us! I’ve removed whatever distance there is, so lift up your eyes to me – stand up freely and walk because your path is not a path of pride but one of humility and honor!”