God, be merciful to me a sinner!
Humility is the most difficult characteristic for the Christian to maintain. It is too easy for us to look at our salvation (either through the sacraments of Orthodoxy or as a born again Baptist) as a “Get Out Of Hell Free” card. It is too easy to find abortion doctors, kidnapping rapist, troubled celebrities, and corrupt politicians that we compare ourselves favorably against. With this ease of judgement (a power that belongs to God alone), complete humility is impossible for those of us outside of monastic communities. Even monks and nuns must struggle for this goal as well.
While we may adhere to lowly words of our prayer discipline, our thoughts and words in general conversation are too much like the Pharisee. “Thank God I am not like James Gosnell, Ariel Castro, OJ Simpson, Tea Party members, Barack Obama and his supporters, … . I love my wife, my children, my country, my people, … . Does not God know our words and thoughts outside of our hours of prayer? Asking for mercy in a few appointed times without the heart, mind, and lips that seek it at all other is hypocritical. At least the Pharisee’s hypocrisy was obvious. We hide ours in Jesus Prayers and Gospel radio.
The Apostle Paul called himself the chief among sinners. Sure, he could boast that he was no longer a persecutor of the Church and that he was the great missionary of Christ to the Roman world. But, Paul understood that God alone is the judge of all mankind and that it is better to think lower of one’s self as the humble are exalted and those who exalt themselves are brought down low. A plethora of saints from the early fathers to Seraphim Rose taught the same thing, that one should think of himself no better than our enemies. If we honestly look at our sins as the things that separate us from communion with God, we all have reason to hang our heads down and beat our breast begging for mercy.
Let us be careful of our thoughts and words outside of prayer. We may be the baby-killing, teen-raping, dirty politicians with inflated egos that we are better than. God, be merciful to me a sinner!