In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable to those convinced of their righteousness. The parable is of the tax collector and the Pharisee who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed in a self-righteous way and the tax collector just prayed for mercy since he was a sinner. The parable concludes with the “moral of the story” which says that the one who humbles himself will be exalted while the exalted will be humbled.
This brought to my mind a reflection I read from March 15th from the Center for Action and Contemplation. It’s title was “Letting Go” which snagged my attention, but the actual meditation kept it. Here is a piece of it:
Real holiness doesn’t feel like holiness; it just feels like you’re dying. It feels like you’re losing it. And you are! You are losing the false self, which you foolishly thought was permanent, important, and you!
To me, what this is describing as this false self would be our own self-righteousness. Our sense that we are good and have crossed all of our t’s and dotted all of our i’s and DESERVE good stuff to happen. No matter how much good we do, we are still sinners and need to realize that our “goodness” doesn’t make us holy and sacred. God makes us holy and sacred.
Later in the meditation, it takes this one step further…
Many of us were taught to say no without the deep joy of yes. We were trained to put up with all “dying” and just take it on the chin. Saying no to the self does not necessarily please God or please anybody. There is too much resentment and self-pity involved. When God, by love and freedom, can create a joyous yes inside of you—so much so that you can absorb the usual noes—then it is God’s full work. The first might be resentful dieting; the second is a spiritual banquet.
I really like this piece of the reflection. For when we just “offer it up” all the time without any substance behind that gift, it is just an empty gift. Saying no to something in our life that we really don’t want to say no to, but is being offered for someone who needs prayer is so much more satisfying.
I know many people who can “offer it up” very easily but it is done with resentment and self-pity which just weakens the offering. It is like someone handing you a present of a CD that you have been wanting, but you find when you open the case to listen, it is empty. These are the people who “fast” for 2 meals and then come in and because they have been “starving” all day, now eat enough food to feed a family for a week.
I don’t know about you, but a banquet (especially a spiritual banquet) sounds good to me vs. the resentful dieting! How about you? Are you willing to add some substance to your offering so that it becomes a banquet or are you willing to settle for less? It doesn’t take much but a lifting of the heart. Lifting oneself up from the depths frequented by the devils and flying high in the sky with the eternal banquet laid out in front of me is DEFINITELY my idea of a banquet.