Few if any of us would like to think of ourselves as arrogant. Truth be told, no arrogant person ever thinks of themselves as arrogant. They are just correct —all the time.
In the first reading today from Ezekiel we hear in graphic terms the punishment dealt out to the arrogant.
Oh yes, you are wiser than Daniel, there is no secret that is beyond you. By your wisdom and your intelligence you have made riches for yourself; You have put gold and silver into your treasuries..Because you have thought yourself to have the mind of a god...You shall die the death of the uncircumcised at the hands of foreigners
This sin is probably the greatest daily danger for any of us. Every time I hear someone say, "We are the greatest nation in the world" or "We have the greatest justice system in the world", I want to scream "Be careful." Even if a woman is beautiful, what do we think of her when she is the one who say it?
We have been blessed. We have a superabundance of natural resources, and like the people Daniel addresses we have used our intelligence, our ingenuity to make ourselves rich and powerful. But in the process, we have lost our humility.
The center of the sin of the people Daniel addresses is captured in one phrase.
you have thought yourself to have the mind of God
It is the original sin. When man decided he did not need God to tell him right from wrong, he would decide for himself.
How many Catholics on Friday, just skipped going to mass on the Holy Day of Obligation, and then on Sunday shamelessly marched up to communion, as if they had done nothing wrong. Why? Because on their own they decided that the obligation didn't apply to them.
How many Christians of various stripes are living daily in what can most politely be called "irregular situations" and yet if I or any other priest or minister dare to challenge them on it, we are accused of not being pastoral. Is it more pastoral to lie and tell them a sin is not a sin?
Sadder yet is the number of people who church shop until they find one that will tell them what they want to hear. Or those who say, " I am spiritual but not religious," shorthand for "My conscience knows there is a God, but I want to make up my own rules."
Do I believe the Catholic Church has it right all the time? No. That is not what we mean when we speak of infallibility. That is the caricature.
But when push comes to shove, I can trust either myself or 2000 years of philosophy and theology. Which is more likely to be correct? How arrogant do I have to be to believe that I'm right and the Church is wrong? And yes on many things I can look around and find groups that will agree with me, but what support do they have for their interpretation of the Bible? How much historical precedent do they have?
When we decide that we have the right to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong we are claiming to have the mind of God. When we make ourselves the final judge. We are making ourselves our own God.
We all slip into it. We love to rationalize. The prophet today reminds us in stark terms of the importance of humility, in relation to God and relation to others.
The prophet Ezekiel encourages every one of us to look deep into our conscience, and listen. If we have the courage to do so, we will find that we know the truth.