The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Humility. It Still Works

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.
1 John (RSV) 2:16-17

The headlines of the day reflect a world largely ignoring St. John's statement of fact from sacred scripture. The translation of this passage sometimes gets a bit misconstrued in our sex-centric culture. That word "lust" has taken a near exclusive carnal definition in American vernacular; however, John had a much broader definition in mind. In point of fact, the Latin of this passage uses the word concupiscentia, meaning to desire ardently or to long for. This could mean any material thing.

The governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich (aka Blago) certainly had his eye on the earthly prize of money and punted his career and his life as he knew it. So blinded by the arrogance that so often manifests itself among people of power, it's doubful he ever paused to consider that pride comes before the fall. (Proverbs 16:18) Even by Chicago standards, Blago and his coconspiritors sunk to a new low.

Then there is the case of prominent Wall Street trader Bernard Madoff, who built a very successful, legitimate investment firm but remained unsatisfied by the blessings of the Almighty. He had respect among his family and peers until yesterday when it was revealed that his latest venture was actually a 50-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. Interestingly enough, it was his sons who turned dad in. Perhaps equally fascinating, Madoff's victims, completely ignored the imprudent practices and red flags of his firm. Only concerned with their returns, they never stopped to ponder just how they were generated. Lust of the eyes indeed.

Ford, GM, and Chrysler have made thier imperfect act of contrition to Congress as they seek absolution from the American tax payer. After years of making cars that they wanted to make versus what the consumer market desired, they are now all flirting with bankruptcy. The failure of these corporations would hurt the economy and prove devastating to the millions of workers connected to the industry. And yet, despite the poor decisions at the top, the rank and file of the UAW must shoulder an equal share of the blame. An unwillingness to accept a more realistic compensation and benefit package meant that America's trinity of automakers was less able to compete with foreign competitors.

As sensational as these news stories have become, they do to a large extent reflect the reality that a culture that turns its back upon God and the love of Christ simply is not sustainable. Left to his own devices, his own fallen concupiscentia, man destroys himself. And it does not take a great effort to follow the way of Our Lord. Consider if in the three scenarios above one simple element had been added from the start. It is a quality that defines God's own step into humanity. It's called humility.

A good dose of humility and Blogo and Madoff are free, rich men, and the Big Three automakers are not bothering the taxpayer to bail them out. The challenge remains that everyone, especially powerful men, have a real problem with humiliation. They fail to see that real power lies not in one's ability to exert it, but rather in one's will to set it aside and humble oneself as a servant. Jesus saved a world doing that.

St. Augustin once said that Mary conceived Christ in her heart, mind, and soul before she conceived Him in her body. As one prepares for the final two weeks of Advent, let all prepare the way of the Lord by discovering the power of humility which proves a potent antidote to the deadly sin of pride.


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