These are hard readings today, aren’t they? More than that, I think; they are harsh readings. But that’s probably a good thing, because they make a point that we all need to hear from time to time.
Sometimes when people think about what the greatest sin would be, they might point to a sexual sin, or to something like abortion or murder or genocide. But the Church Fathers have always been a little more heavy-handed against the sin of pride, and I think that’s what today’s readings are getting at. And because the sin of pride is so insidious, it is probably necessary that the reaction to that sin be harsh.
In today’s first reading, Ezekiel has to come down hard on the prince of Tyre, and really all of the people, for thinking they are greater than God; that their own power can get them through any difficulty. He has to prophecy what they don’t want to hear, that their power will not be enough to overcome their enemies after all. And in today’s Gospel, Jesus has to deal with those who are rich. Being rich isn’t the sin; the sin is thinking that because one is rich, he has everything he needs for a successful life. We know that money cannot necessarily buy happiness; what we hear today is that money can’t buy a place in the kingdom of God.
Maybe the reason that pride is such a problematic sin is that when we’re caught up in it, we don’t know we’re caught up in it. We think we have it all together and we don’t need anyone’s help, thank you very much. What is sad is that the outcome is often thinking that we don’t even need God, which may not be what we intended, and could not be farther from the truth.
It might not seem like the sin of pride can ever be overcome. But as Jesus reminds us today, “For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” All things are possible if we remain close to God who longs to give us everything we need. If only we call on him and remember that he is God and we are not.