With six children, having enough cars that ran well had been an issue in our household. On one occasion, when I was rushing to drop kids off at school and get to an important meeting, my car died. I was furious! Steamy hot mad. Eventually, however, I decided to confess my “righteous” anger at the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The priest listened patiently, and then calmly—almost with a smile—remarked, “Welcome to the rest of humanity.” Welcome to the rest of humanity? Ouch!
It stung, but after time, my conscience reflected honestly on this startling statement. The priest was right. I was born into privilege, and gifted with a loving, faith-filled family, an excellent education, and all the advantages of being upper middle class. I have never experienced hunger, inadequate drinking water, serious health issues or homelessness. Indeed, I knew little about the rest of humanity.
This Sunday’s Gospel relates the story of the Pharisee who prays in the temple, “‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity.’” The Pharisee’s pride allows him the illusion of being different: better, above, privileged, righteous. The tax collector, however, stands off at a distance, beats his breast and pleads, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” He understands himself as one in need of God’s mercy—like the rest of humanity.
Knowing ourselves as one with the rest of humanity deepens our compassion for those struggling with material or spiritual poverty. How dare I condemn the greedy woman when I’m guilty of envy? Or look down on the dishonest man when I tell little white lies? Or snub the pregnant teen when I’ve searched for intimacy? In reality, the greedy man is hungry for self-esteem, the dishonest one is thirsting for validation, and the pregnant teen is looking for love in all the wrong places. I am slower to claim my own righteousness when I recognize our common humanity.
When driving through Atlanta at seventy-five miles per hour, I glanced three lanes over, and there was a sight I will never forget. An older black man, standing in the pouring rain, next to his broken down pickup truck, which held a mattress. It seemed to me the height of misery and my heart ached for him—my brother, the rest of humanity. I empathized—to a small extent— because of my experience with broken down vehicles.
Parents/grandparents name grace—God’s compassionate presence—in the domestic church by refusing to judge, condemn, or make derogatory statements about others. We name grace by teaching our children that each person is struggling with something, and to respect the classmate wearing worn out shoes, failing in math, acting out, or sitting alone. We name grace by reaching out to the brokenhearted—no matter the circumstances.
Pride marched me out of the confessional but, after time, humility led me right back in, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner. Forgive me for thinking of myself as righteous and different from others.” For the truth is, we are all loved sinners in need of God’s mercy—we are each a part of the rest of humanity. Now, that’s good news!
How have you experienced being with the rest of humanity?
How will you convey this concept to your children?
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.