By Sharon Wilson
For about eight years, I worked as the Respect Life Coordinator for my Archdiocese. My employment came during difficult times for the Archdiocese and caused me to struggle with my faith. I know that many suffered after hearing the news of clergy abuse scandals, however, it felt very personal when working for the Archdiocese.
Although not nearly as painful, I have experienced great dismay when faced with people in the church, who have let me down. For example, a crabby “church lady” or the uncharitable behavior of church staff or committee members has occasionally placed obstacles on my spiritual journey.
I once asked my spiritual director how to handle being disappointed with the behavior of others in the church. Troubled by these conflicting feelings, I remember saying, “When I became more involved in the church, both as a volunteer and an employee, I expected people to be nice, good, holy….” She replied, “What made you think they would be different than anyone else?”
Today we hear about the Pharisee and the tax collector.
How easy it would be for me to see Pharisees all around me. To look at these so-called “church people” and point a finger at their hypocrisy.
I can almost hear myself saying,
O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
Then, suddenly I become the Pharisee.
Humility is a funny thing. My son used to jokingly say, “Humility. I am the best at it!”
It is one of those phrases that make you laugh once you think it through.
As for the faith struggles brought about by the behaviors I witnessed in my Archdiocese and church. Abusive behavior is never condoned, and we all have a crabby day but they should never become our norm, nor ever taken out on another person. I think what has gotten me through my struggles has been recognizing that our Church is made of imperfect people but with a perfect God. I further need to recognize that I am part of the imperfect people that make up our church.
O God, be merciful to me a sinner.
Jesus wants to remind us in this parable that we need to look at others through God’s eyes. Sometimes that can be difficult but being grounded in true humility helps us see from His view a bit.
A priest once told me that “humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” This has helped me to understand that humility is not to put myself down; God doesn’t look for us to walk around with poor self-esteem!
It is in comparing ourselves to others that get us into trouble. I struggle with this all of the time. I am prone to jealousy, hurt feelings, and pride. One of the hardest prayers for me to say is the Litany of Humility. If I am honest with myself, I would have to say I don’t think I ever have fully meant the words in this prayer as I recite them. It is just too hard, but I turn to it from time to time, especially when I feel my inner Pharisee creeping in.
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…
About the author:
Sharon Wilson – Wife, Mother, Writer, Catholic Speaker, and a WINE Specialist. Sharon has a degree in education and has worked as a freelance writer, Respect Life Coordinator, a teacher, in advertising, radio, buyer and in youth advocacy – She even rode an elephant in the circus once! Sharon speaks, writes and shares about God’s healing and about the great gift of being Catholic at SharonAgnesWilson.com