Sometimes, I feel like high school is nothing but competition, fostered by a societal system bent upon intellectual advancement. Social development, credit to the arts, and a true sense of morality can sometimes slip through the cracks of a rigorous schedule. Students are encouraged to have a solitary goal – success. I find myself falling into this quite often. But when is success ever reached? When is enough, well, enough? Over time, I am realizing that this drive to succeed must be tempered with humility, a difficult quality to strive for in a world bent on its own accomplishments. In today’s Gospel, Jesus addresses a parable to “those who were convinced of their own righteousness”. In short, he preaches to those lauded as 'successful' in each era.
Concretely, the parable makes an important point: humility is key. However, it is easy to doubt Jesus’ words and point out the fact that we do not live in a clear cut dichotomy of ways. In Roman society, faith was an integral part of all life. In the modern generation’s philosophy of Church/State separation, it would seem that the parable no longer applies. In reality though, it probably means more today than it did in Jesus’ time. In the Control-F generation (Abba’s term for the modern generation of students) there is not only the need for instant concrete gratification (as is received by the man in the temple from people in form of applause), but also instant mental gratification. Often, we tend to seek some kind of positive emotional response out of any situation we perform in, whether it is telling your parents about getting the best grade in the class on the science test (of course, you actually got about the same as everyone else) or telling your friends about your every social activity on Facebook. We are driven by the urge to forfeit our lives to the judgment of others, simply so that the judgment will come back with positive results to boast about. In the end, I often ask myself, “how much simpler will this action be if I just don’t make a big deal about it?”.
Today’s Gospel, more than anything, calls us to simply look and ask ourselves if our actions are for God or for the judgment of others. It can be a complicated question that will have an ambiguous answer. But if we can truly make an effort to not even raise “eyes to heaven”, instead living a life for God, we can hope to slowly shift the societal urge to impress to a more important one – the hope to impress God.