To follow up on last weeks reflection on “Prepare yourself for trials,” from the Book of Sirach, I want to share with you today that when the trials come, one of satan’s biggest schemes, one of his most popular and well received tactics, is to try to get you and I into the “Linda Ronstadt syndrome.”  What is that?  Remember the song she sang, “Poor, poor pitiful me, woe is me?”  Self pity is venom to faith and ministry, because it keeps a person in the “I” mode, which is the antithesis of a disciples “other” mode. Self pity has many consequences and faces: pointing fingers at others, retreating from ministry, seldom smiling but often moping, lashing out at perceived offenders, depression, impatience, slander, and constantly walking around and saying, “Why me?”  

As disciples, we must refuse to live with a sense of entitlement based on misperceived expectations influenced by our position, education, skills, experience, or power.  In life, as well as ministry we all need what we as Americans call a “thick skin,” which allows us to avoid the sense of always being offended, slighted, disrespected, gossiped about, not being heard in the manner we think we deserve.  The reality is, more often than not, no one is disrespecting you or trying to offend, people are listening to you, the enemy is trying to draw you back to your old self, making you think that your not needed, not welcomed, not heard, not being used as God’s instrument in the right way, so you will leave the ministry or even worse lose faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, these are all lies, and there is a spiritual way to fight through them.  

My experience is that self pity is a form of the ubiquitous and deadly spiritual gift of the enemy called pride.  Pride causes us to have selfish expectations, to believe certain things about ourselves that simply are not true, and when we feel slighted or our expectations are not realized, then we often fall into the Linda Ronstadt mode, where again, as it was before metanoia, its all about the ME, the I, me, mine, meaning the enemy has won that battle because a division is now created between yourself and those who you believe are at fault and so your mission and the ministry will suffer.  Pride is sin and sin is a division between us and Jesus.

That is the enemy’s goal, to invade your spirit with an evil spirit of pride so that God’s plan, working so well through you, will be thwarted and fail.  Do not give in to self imposed pity because of your pride, the bible reveals to all mathetes, to all with a mature spirit, that pride is the beginning of a fall, the beginning of even greater disasters in a persons life, “Pride goes before disaster, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Proverbs 16:18  

To learn how we as mathetes fight off the evil spirit of pride, let’s us continue to learn from our Teacher, our Master, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in and through his Word.  “Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.  Therefore, put away all filth and excess and humbly welcome the Word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.”  James 1: 19-21.   Begin to send your thoughts and spirit to the word humbly.  

“Although you should be teachers by this time, you need to have someone teach you again the basic elements of the utterances of God.  You need milk, not solid food.  Everyone who lives on milk lacks the experience of the word of righteousness, for he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil.”  Hebrews 5:12-14.  Now, send your thoughts and spirit to “for the mature.”  Put yourself in this Word.  

“My brothers, I could not talk to you as spiritual people, but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ.  I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it.  Indeed you are still not able, even now, for you are still in the flesh.”  1 Corinthians 3:1-2.  What the Word reveals is that a humble heart is the spiritual gift of those who have a mature faith, a mature spirit, a faith that has been tried and tested by the fire of suffering and temptations, and has overcome them, in the name of Jesus Christ, so they are now able to live a life that is based on God’s plan and purpose and not their own.  

A humble spirit will always defeat the spirit of pride that attempts of control and use us for the enemy’s purpose, because a humble spirit is a gift of the Holy Spirit and God the Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus Christ’s in his victory over satan and sin to all who believe and follow him.  How do we know if we have reached this level of spiritual maturity?  Answering these questions will help us discern where we are at: when you have an argument with a friend, a spouse, in the ministry, do you lash out in anger, speak harshly, follow up with slander? Are you the first or last to say “I am sorry?”  

The person with the mature spirit will be keenly aware of the Word being opposed to slander and will have the spiritual power and self control not to speak in anger or to slander but to reconcile, to mend, to communicate, to forgive, and especially to love, so as not to cause harm or division, and this person will be the first to say “I am sorry.”  

When you do not receive something you want or expect: a promotion, a gift, a thank you, an invitation, a possession, respect, a favor, do you: slander, get angry, retreat into your own world, or do you turn the situation over to Jesus, place the matter in God’ hands, where all wisdom and revelation lies?  Are you happy or jealous, when a friend, a family member, a colleague, is blessed with personal success like a promotion at work, a better paying job, respectful and obedient children, a great marriage, etc.?  

Finally, and in my mind a clear and absolute manner in which we can know if we are living with a spirit of pride or walking in the Father’s vineyard, with a mature and humble spirit is this:  are you adept at stirring the dirt, passing on the mess, trash talking another person every chance you get, bringing up others faults and past mistakes?  No one, seriously no one, with a mature and humble spirit will be a person who “passes on the mess,” they just do not go there.  This should be your experience.  

Think of some of the men and women, who you know are walking in the Father’s vineyard, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and think of how many times that person has maliciously spoken about others?  If you as a mathetes have not as yet attained this level of spiritual maturity, today you are personally being called by Jesus to receive the spiritual gift of humility and walk with him in that way.  To help you in your calling to receive the spiritual gift of humility, by never slandering another persons name, remember this acronym, TANG, the famous drink of the astronauts.

T is for TRUE.  Meaning, before we say things about another person, we ask ourselves this question:  Is what we are saying TRUE?  If is not true, then it is a lie, and all lies are of the enemy, John 8:44, so why repeat something that follows satan’s plan and not Gods?  If it’s not TRUE, do not repeat it, defeat the enemy by being the person where the lie stops, where the lie and the enemy are defeated, because you are the person who recognized it was a lie and you stopped it from being repeated and spread. This reflects a mature faith, a mature spirit, and all who stop lies from being repeated, will be blessed by Jesus.  

Have you ever done something embarrassing, made a mistake, made a bad decision, committed a sin?   Uhh, yes.  How did it feel TO YOU when your embarrassing moment, your mistake, your bad decision, your sin, was the fodder for the local coffee shop, your school, your workplace, your ministry, or in your family?  Exactly.  So just because something is true does not mean it should be repeated.  Before sharing the dirt, the gossip, the bad news about another person, even if it is true, ask yourself the A question in TANG:  Does what you are saying about the person, ANOINT them? Meaning is what you are about to say concerning another person Holy Spirit inspired and led, if it is not inspired by the Holy Spirit, there is only one other spiritual option, the evil spirit.  A mature spirit will recognize when what they are saying is Holy Spirit led or evil spirit inspired.

The third letter in TANG is “N,” for “New,” meaning does what we are saying, follow Jesus’ NEW commandment to love one another.  Love is our greatest gift because “God is love,” 1 John 4:8, Jesus asks as mathetes to “remain in my love,” John 15:9, and in the first letter of John the Word reveals this about how we as disciples remain in Jesus, “This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has GIVEN US OF HIS SPIRIT,”  1 John 4:13, St. Paul taught the Church in Corinth this about love, “Faith, hope, love remain; these three but the greatest of these is love.” 1Corinthians 13:13.  

The last letter in TANG is the “G” which means that before we say things about others we ask this question: does it follow the biblical revelation of the GOLDEN rule?   “Do unto others whatever you would have them do to you.”  Matthew 7:12   As always, make it personal. Do you enjoy being slandered, lied about, dislike by people who do not even know you because of what they “heard” about you? Exactly.

Mathetes, spreading the dirt about others is a reflection of walking in and with the wrong spirit, the spirit of pride so there is no blessing in spreading the dirt, there is NO anointing is saying something about another person, even if it is true, if what your are saying about them, puts them in a negative light, if the ultimate purpose of what we are saying is to make fun of them, to demean them, to hurt them in some way, to tear down their reputation, because the spiritual reality of a disciple is that we are called by Jesus to protect the reputation of others and not tear them down.  That’s a punto final.  So before you or I say or repeat something about another person, let us ask ourselves if what we are saying follows the criteria of TANG, and if it does not, then do not repeat them, this is the sign of a mature spirit, a mature faith walking with the spiritual gift of humility, the faith of a mathetes.  

Every now and then, we need to take our cars to jiffy lube, to change the oil and rotate the tires, just a little check up.  Every time we do an “examination of conscience,” we are giving our minds, spirits, and souls, a little check up, yes, daily, we need to examine our faith, our walk in the Spirit. In prayer and through the Word we take time to reflect and ask ourselves the hard questions that no one else will ask us about our spiritual lives.  

This is an important point for me.  In our Sower ministry, when issues of slander, pride, arrogance, and lust begin to show their ugly faces, we address them, hopefully in a kind and loving way, but just addressing can bring tension and hard feelings, these are less of a consequence than the division and contamination which will be made manifest in the ministry if the behavior/sin/spiritual weaknesses are not brought to light and changed in the love and power of the Spirit.

The Sower ministry however is a rare bird, in my experience in the Church, in ministry, I have found that only on a very very few occasions has anyone had the courage, spiritual perception, and love, to ever ask me important questions about my spiritual life, places where they thought I was deficient and needed to grow and came to me in private and pointed out some important things and asked some good questions, not in a hypocrital or condemning way, but in a way that I knew they respected and loved me and wanted me to be a better mathetes and serve Jesus in a more righteous and anointed way.

When the admonishment/correction of another brother or sister is done in a spirit of self-righteousness the end will be worse than the beginning, when done in love, with mutual respect and purpose, having the courage to go to another person and ask them to look at their spiritual lives through another’s eyes, in a new Light, can have tremendous spiritual growth, however as I said, outside of the Sower, these are rare, very rare occasions and the spiritual reality is that most of the hard question of who we are and where we may be falling short of the person Jesus is calling us to be will come from YOURSELF in your prayers, conversations with Jesus, and examination of conscience, where the Holy Spirit will literally point out to you who you are and where you need to change and grow spiritually, the next step, following the Spirit’s guidance is our personal choice.  

So my point is this: do not expect others in the ministry or in the Church to challenge you on your walk in the vineyard, how well you love/forgive/show mercy and kindness and reflect a mature faith and genuine indwelling of the Holy Spirit, no, this important spiritual growth will come mostly from the Holy Spirit as you personally in your honest reflection/examination of who you really are as a mathetes of Jesus Christ.  

Challenge yourself by listening to the voice of Jesus.  Jesus asked Peter “Who do you say that I am?”  Matthew 16:15. In our examination of conscience, we reverse the question and say, “Jesus who do you say that I am?”  Make sure you are sitting down when you ask Jesus this question!! Jesus is God, Jesus is never wrong and if our hearts are open to his Spirit, he will guide and encourage us and show us the times we are mathetes of the lips and not of the heart, the times when we act “holy” in front of others but in certain and specific ways we are thinking and living completely different realities.  

After we reflect and examine our conscience to see how authentic and true our life and walk has been, Jesus will do two things, first he will offer us the fruits of his Spirit which will enable us to defeat whatever is spiritually attacking and attempting to bind us.  Secondly, Jesus will call us to his majestic Sacrament of Reconciliation to be cleansed and purified by the Holy Spirit in the authority that he has empowered his Church with.  At this point we want to remember an essential truth of what our Church teaches about this Sacrament, namely that we promise to AMEND our life as part of our being contrite of heart.  See the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1451.

To amend ones life means being resolves to change it, change the spiritual reality, to make a sincere effort to stop doing that which Jesus pointed out to us in our examination of conscience.  Amendment, change, is essential to this Sacrament because if we are not sincere about amending our life then there is no contrition and we are NOT FORGIVEN, because our confession was of the lips and not of the heart, we must make a sincere effort to stop committing that sin or sins which we have just confessed.  

Receiving the fruits of the Spirit Jesus offers us is the power we need to amend our lives and live “In a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love.”  Ephesians 4:1.  See also Phil 1:27; Col 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Thess. 1:11.  All this is important and essential for us as Sowers, as mathetes, take it to heart, examine your conscience, make sure that the things you do in secret are the same things you do in public because for Jesus there are no secrets, all of our life is public to him.

In our reflection, our examination of the self, we always begin and end with Jesus, in prayer, in the Word.  In his Word, Jesus reveals and models all spiritual gifts, all means of sanctification and righteousness.  Jesus is always the antidote for the spiritual venom that the enemy spews into the world because Jesus, in his Blood, Resurrection, and sending of the Spirit, always has the eternal victory.  Yes, Jesus has taken the teeth from this serpent, who still roams around like a “roaring lion, trying to devour us,” Ephesians  4:20.  But the bible reveals that for all those who believe in Jesus and walk in and with his Spirit the enemy has lost his sting, his bite, “Where O death is your victory?  Where O death is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”   Amen to the Blood of the Father’s Lamb.  1 Corinthians 15: 55-56.  

Receive this Word, receive this victory from Jesus now, begin to pray and ask him for the spiritual gift of humility, so that you can counter attack all self pity and the spirit of pride, with his power, his authority, his Holy Spirit, he wants you to ask for this gift, he wants you to receive this gift and mature in faith and spirit, he knows your struggles, he knows your thoughts, he knows your fears, he loves you, “Come to me all of you who labor and are burdened, I will give your rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.”  Matthew 11: 28-29.  

Jesus is telling you and I right now that all humility resides in and with him, all of it, and if we want to be humble, we must unite ourselves to him and only him.   The moments when we allow the spirit of pride to be manifested though us divides us from Jesus and is a really bad sign that we are turning back to the old “self,” that person who before coming to know and serve Jesus was selfish, lustful, possession obsessed, filled with foul language and pride, jealous, addicted to the things of the world and away from him, and as you know that is an absolute spiritual disaster.  

Humility kills all that ugliness.  In the same way that pride has so many other consequences and outcomes, so does humility.  For example, a humble person will also be a person of self control, able to fight the spiritual battle against possessions and the lures of the flesh, a humble person will not lash out with foul language and anger when offended, yes, instead of trying to plot ways to “make the offender pay,” they will be obedient to this Word, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink, for by doing so you will heap burning coals upon his head.”  Romans 12:20.  Amen to the Blood.  As we have seen, humility is a huge, huge burning coal, burning up the enemy’s gift of pride and self pity.

A humble person, think Mother Theresa and John Paul II, will always heap the “burning coals” of prayer upon those who attack and offend, as opposed to a person who has an immature spirit, an immature walk with Jesus, who as St. Paul says, is actually still “in the flesh,” meaning that the old self has not been fully removed, they still live in jealousy, rivalry, and pride, and therefore they are susceptible to all forms of the enemy’s attacks.  

For those who live in the Spirit, the reality between humility and pride will be easy to see and distinguish, it begins with a personal observation of ones own spirit, what your spirit is attracted to. When you live with the Holy Spirit, your spirit will be strongly drawn to a humble person, a humble spirit.  A person who is not always centering on and concerned with themselves, but is genuinely interested in the life of another, asking questions and listening for the answer.  

Yes, a mature spirit, a spirit of humility will be attracted to the person who brings joy, peace, hope, and love to their lives, not just complaining and self-centeredness.  A person who instead of bragging about themselves or the new car/clothes/stuff they bought is attentive to the needs of others, smiling, talking about their family, their ministry, and on all occasions giving Jesus the glory on honor for the blessings in their life.

The opposite is true for a person with a spirit of pride, in the Holy Spirit, with a mature spirit, with the fruit of humility, you will no longer be attracted to the boastful, the arrogant, the selfish, the entitled, it does not matter if they are rich or poor, Hollywood good looking or a plain Jane, doctor or homeless, if they walk with a spirit of pride, they will be spiritually repulsive to you, there is no attraction, in fact you will begin to feel uneasy around them, and that is why a humble person is so easy to be around, because our eternal, our soul and spirit, are attracted to their eternal, their soul and spirit, which are shining forth in all humility.

So brothers and sisters united in faith and Spirit, continue to mature in faith through prayer, Word, Sacrament, and service.  Make the fruits of the Holy Spirit the habit of your heart. Small acts of kindness reflect a big heart of love.  Practice the gift of humility in a real and personal way by beginning with your family, ministry, and colleagues at work.  Right now think of ways that you can be more humble with your spouse, like maybe less complaining and more listening and words of respect.

This “practice” will be a direct attack on the enemy’s gift of pride and self pity.  Go there and “Remain in his love.”  “Rejoice always and pray without ceasing” for this spiritual gift and you will be attracting others to Jesus like honey.  You will also be smiling more and rejoicing more because you will be a shining light bearing witness to the world that Jesus’ New Commandment to love one another is being fulfilled in your faith and walk in the Father’s vineyard.  Amen to the Blood.


Grace and peace,