Mona said that her husband reluctantly agreed to sell some old neckties at a garage sale. He glowed with pride when one woman kept exclaiming, “Perfect,” as she picked up each tie. Paying for her purchases, the woman remarked, “These will look terrific on my scarecrow.”
As Jesus says in the Gospel, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.” What is humility? It’s not being humbled after exalting oneself! Humility is truth. It’s recognizing our good points as well as our failings. It’s realizing that all good things come from God. Knowing this opens a path of communication between God and us. The humble tax collector, Jesus tells us, “went home justified,” but not the proud Pharisee.
What does it mean that the tax collector went home justified? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that justification comes from God’s grace that has the power to “cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ and through Baptism.”
Turning from sin to God’s grace raises us to a whole new level: We become God’s children and are joined to Jesus. This raises even our simplest actions to heavenly heights. It’s like the flea who was hitchhiking on the back of an elephant. The elephant walked across a bridge, and the flea whispered in the elephant’s ear, “Boy, we really made those timbers rattle, didn’t we?” The elephant just smiled.
The humblest of human beings, joined to Jesus, makes timbers rattle too ... on the bridge between this world and the next. With the tax collector, we humbly admit our sinfulness and our need for God. We confidently trust in the justification granted through grace. Humility and justification unite us to God and raise us to new life that lasts forever. That’s something we can rightly be proud of!