Humbleness is the way of the Gospel. Mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, was very humble in The Magnificat. We, her children, learn from our mother Mary, to recognize our unworthiness, sinfulness, and brokenness before God. This recognition tells us we need God and need others. We need God's mercy and forgiveness. We need to open ourselves to receive God's grace, and that enables us to humbly follow the footsteps of Jesus. We also need each other, our sisters and brothers in Christ, for assistance, for growth, and for both physical and spiritual development.
Jesus told the parable about a tax collector and a Pharisee, both went to the Temple to pray. God approves the tax collector's prayer and disapproves of the Pharisee's. The reason is that the Pharisee came to the Temple not to praise God but to honour himself. The tax collector came to the Temple to pray. He stood at a distance, casting his eyes on the floor, striking his breast in sorrow, and nervously revealing his inner life. His language was simple and sincere. His prayer was short and precise to the point, simply asking God for mercy because he knew that he was a sinner. He believed God knows the sins he has committed and asked for the gift of forgiveness. God granted him what he asked for. In contrast to the tax collector, the Pharisee proudly approached the Temple, standing upright and facing God; he then presented a long 'shopping list' of what he had done. His language revealed that he loved no one. Instead of praying for them, he looked down on them. He said he was better than the rest of mankind and certainly was better than the tax collector. He expected that God would approve of his righteousness. In his saying he asked God for nothing, and of course, he received nothing. In fact, he came to the Temple not to say his prayer, but to parade and justify his good deeds before God. The text made clear that the Pharisee, 'said this prayer to himself'. This self praise is not a prayer at all, because the essence of prayer is the heart, and a humble, sincere heart, God will receive. Praising and giving thanks and recognizing God's reign in our hearts is what we need to pray for. When we think we are perfect, God becomes irrelevant to our life. Because we are perfect, there is nothing for God to redeem. We don't need God but have faith in our own achievements. This kind of thinking covers the truth, that we need God always. We need to acknowledge that it is God who gives us talents in the first place. The right attitude of a humble heart would be, we are grateful for the gifts God has given us. We are not proud of our achievement, but we are proud of our great God whom we adore, worship and show gratitude. On the other hand, our failures and imperfection help us to acknowledge that we are fragile and weak, and that we need the gift of forgiveness. This is the attitude of the tax collector, who was conscious of his sins, and asked for God's love and mercy. In asking for God's love and mercy, he recognized the bounty of God's love.
Most of us keep crossing between the two paths, moving forward and backward between the path of the Pharisee and of the tax collector. One moment we praise God for our success; other times we believe in our own strength. The root of arrogance is deep- rooted in our hearts. Whenever we neglect controlling it, it will take control of our lives. We pray for the grace to be humble in prayer and in loving God and others.