If You’re Prideful, Don’t Mess with Jesus
There are a lot of things I am OK at, fewer things that I am good at, and very few things I am great at. But there is one thing that I am super great at: foosball.
You know that table soccer game that is often found in rec-rooms and bars? Well I am super great at that game. When I was in high school, I had access to a foosball table, and I was never far away from it. You might say that I squandered my high school years on foosball, but by the time I got to college no one could beat me.
I hadn’t played foosball in years until recently, when I was at my sister’s house for a family gathering, when a foosball tournament broke out. No one in my family had a chance; no one even came close. I was the last man standing, and unscathed at that.
I recently brought all of this up at one of the school Masses at Stella Maris Academy, and then I posed this question to the kids: “Do you think Jesus could beat me in foosball?” They all screamed out with a hearty, “YES!!” I replied by informing them that there were no foosball tables during the time of Jesus, so do you really think Jesus could beat me? To which they screamed out even louder, “YES!!!”
Why? Because Jesus is God, and you cannot beat God. Amen! Of course we cannot beat God at anything; the last thing in the world anyone should ever want is to have God up against them in anything, because we will always end up the loser, even if it is in foosball.
This interaction with the kids came as a result of the readings we had at that Mass from the First Letter of St. Peter, when our first pope said, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (5:5b). St. Peter was actually referencing a quote from the Old Testament book of Proverbs, which says, “When he [God] is dealing with the arrogant, he is stern, but to the humble he shows kindness” (3:34).
So as Peter says, “God opposes the proud,” and nobody wants God opposing them — not in foosball, not in anything. In fact, if we ponder those words from St. Peter, they are pretty sobering. How do these words apply to us? Well the first thing that comes to my mind is that I am pretty proud of my foosball skills. (Full disclosure: since I wrote this column, one of my brother priests in the diocese beat me in a game, but I am not saying who). But I was talking about my skills to make a point in a homily.
There are clear practical examples in our day-to-day life as to how we exhibit being proud. When we talk behind someone’s back and gossip about them, whether it be a coworker, classmate, neighbor, family member, or whoever, in our gossip we are making ourselves out to be better than the person we are disparaging. As I told the kids that morning, if you make fun of schoolmates or do not let them into your circle of friends, you are in essence making yourself out to be better than your classmates, and that is being proud. And if we are proud, God is opposed to us.
Many saints and spiritual authors over the centuries have written about the virtue of humility as the one virtue that ties all other virtues together. If we are not humble, then we cannot excel in any other virtue either. But no words are as compelling as St. Peter’s words, that God actually opposes those who are proud.
Being proud of our country or sports team or even our children and grandchildren is not the same as thinking yourself better than other people. Some pride, like patriotism, is healthy; it is when we start to think that we are better than others that we start to run into serious problems.
So the moral of the story is that you never want God opposed to you in anything, so just be humble.