Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

07 December 2018

Pride: “I Will Not Serve”

The deadliest of the deadly sins requires the most vital remedy: Christ the humble King is the antidote to the Pride of the lion. “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake He became poor although He was rich, so that by His poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). Of course, there is the desire to avoid the fall before which pride goeth (cf. Prov 16:18)—a desire motivated by a healthy enough dose of pride...and prudence. 

Unhealthy pride registers as a pronounced preoccupation with self that makes us alternately disappointed or fascinated. Superiority and inferiority have their respective dangers. “What are other people saying or thinking about me?” is a heavily-traveled road. In order to drive on that road, we find ourselves exaggerating, or desiring to impress. Our knowledge, our talents, our resources become a tool for shaping perceptions rather than serving for service’ sake.

Our fair land seems forever embroiled in a conflict of some sort. Remarkable, though, is the drama of the angelic conflict of Lucifer and Michael, which didn’t really involve a sword. Rather, while Lucifer declared he would not serve, effectively making himself out to be God, Michael responded, “Who is like God?“—the meaning of his name. The truth was spoken, the untruthful angels had a great fall, and the rest is salvation history.

Subtle is the soul’s campaign to become the sole arbiter of good and evil. Before the first human sin was the first angelic sin: Lucifer’s refusal to worship as God desires. “I will not serve!” was his anthem. Note that, while the angelic will and intellect are so supreme as to manifest in a single act of choosing and knowing, we humans thankfully move about from one act to another, giving us the very possibility of repentance.

The 1992 Supreme Court decision “Planned Parenthood v. Casey” astoundingly declared, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.“ Come again? 

How this decision disastrously unfurls: I recently read that 45% of all 2011 U.S. pregnancies were unintended. That information came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Human life, a disease! The Catholic Church still doggedly claims that reproductive “freedom” (aka contraception) is not the answer to the irresponsibility and violence that mostly men perpetuate: we have to dig deeper.

The preceding reflections on the capital sins did not observe the order that Bishop Barron rightly employed in his talks. Take the initials of my reverse movement, and you have the acronym PALE GAS: Pride, Anger, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Avarice, and Sloth. Like a pale gas, any of these sinful trends can begin to characterize our attitudes and behaviors, and finally suffocate us. Through the “breathing treatment” of repentance, however, a new air can inhabit our souls.

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