CHALLENGING THE PHARISEE WITHIN

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Breaking out of the Perfectionist has been so freeing for me–not easy– but freeing. Sometimes I find myself cringing inside as I share my weaknesses publicly. It’s not easy for a perfectionist to die to her ways. However, I find as I share my weaknesses, the inner Pharisees in me are dying. I’m able to help others far more when I share about my shortcomings than when I hide them and pretend to be someone I’m not. Betty shared the story below, which illustrates this point well.

“One time when I was on a forty-day retreat in the desert, the Scripture for the mass was one that disturbed me. It said there is more rejoicing in Heaven over the one repentant sinner than over the ninety-nine who need no repentance (Luke 15:27). In prayer, I said that just wasn’t fair. I sensed a response, “What’s not fair?” I replied, “It’s just not fair that the ninety-nine who needed no repentance were, no doubt, working very hard trying to be good.” You see, I had to stick up for my little Pharisees. They worked so hard trying to do things right, and that is good. It is part of our awareness and part of our responsibility! But I said, “What are you saying in the Scripture?”

And He said, “Don’t you get it? It’s a joke!” I said, “I fail to see the joke.” He said, “Read it over again.” So I pulled the Scripture and read it again: “There is more rejoicing in Heaven over the one repentant sinner than over the ninety-nine who need no repentance.” Then I got it. Anybody who believes they need no repentance is not going to get into Heaven. They are in denial. They are lying. They are letting their inner Pharisees take over. They are not looking at the weakness and sinfulness that is in human nature. Even the holiest of saints, such as St Francis of Assisi said, “Ah, Brother, I am the greatest sinner in the world,” and Brother Jupiter answered, “Now, Francis, don’t say that. Everybody knows that you are a holy man.” And Francis would say, “But Brother, if anybody else were given the graces that God gave me, don’t you think they would have loved Him much more?” Spoken as a truly holy person!”

St. Francis’ words are challenging. “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more (Luke 12:48). We’ve been given a great treasure in the Catholic Church with the Eucharist and all the sacraments. God has given us mentors, family, freedom and so many other gifts. My prayer for us is that when we stand before God we will be like the faithful servant who multiplied the talents God had given Him. I’m comforted by what one of the saints said, “That which He wills us to do, He Himself will do in us.” May we unite ourselves with His will each day so that He can do in us that which He wills.

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