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Young Nun in her Cell_Cesare Laurenti_19 cent

Young Nun in her Cell, Cesare Laurenti, 19th Century

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

This week, we will take a look at the deadly sin or the vice of pride and its antidote, poverty of spirit.

Pride is the greatest sin. It was the first sin in all of creation, causing Satan to rebel against God. Satan fell because he could not accept God’s plan to divinize human beings. Satan could not attack God, so he retaliated against that which God loves most, us.

Pride is the also the first sin of Adam and Eve. Desiring to be like God, they fell for Satan’s deception that God did not have their best interests at heart. This is Satan’s game plan. Time and time again, he tries to convince us that God cannot be trusted with our happiness; and we must follow our own path to achieve happiness.

Pride is the first and greatest sin because it violates the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:3). “Pride puts self before God.”[1]

The only way to combat the sin of pride is to become humble of heart, admitting that we are prideful. Pride says: “My will be done.” Humility is not thinking less of ourselves but thinking less about ourselves. It is placing God’s will ahead of our own, trusting that God does know what is best for us.

“The deepest reason God hates pride,” says Peter Kreeft, “is that it keeps us from knowing God, our supreme joy.”[2] Humility sees less and less of ourselves and more and more of God. Ultimately, we do not see ourselves at all but only God, the source of all joy. We must echo the words of Saint John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).

To counteract the sin or vice of pride, we need to practice the beatitude of being “poor in spirit.” This does not mean weakness or despondency but being detached from the things of this world. It is focusing on God and His kingdom to come. “Detachment from the world and attachment to God brings the greatest riches and the greatest power,”[3] says Kreeft. God has more power in one breath than all the forces of Hell.

So spiritually, our strength is our receptivity, our active passivity to God, our emptiness, our motherhood (to God we are all women). If we come to God with empty hands, he will fill them. If we come with full hands, he finds no place to put himself. It is our beggary, our receptivity, that is our hope.[4]

It is in being spiritually poor that we become spiritually rich in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15

Next week, we will examine the vice of avarice and the opposing virtue of giving mercy.

This is the fourth in a series on virtue. The first one is Living Virtue Well in Our Marriages and Families, the second one focuses on The Cardinal Virtues, and the third The Beatitudes Confront the Seven Deadly Sins.

[1] Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 97.

[2] Ibid., 102.

[3] Ibid., 105.

[4] Ibid.