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Examine Scripture

Mark 12:38-40

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Popularity Contest

Where do you fit in the crowd at your parish?

In the course of his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”  -Mark 12:38-40, NAB

While discussing an earlier verse in Mark (Mark 10:35-45), I taught on the dangers of becoming a Catholic celebrity.  Today’s verse is similar, but on a smaller scale.  Within your parish, where do you fit into the social hierarchy?  Are you popular among your fellow parishioners?  While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, we must be careful to not let it consume us.

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It seems like we can never escape the old stereotypes from high school.  There is an in crowd everywhere we go: at school, at work, and even in some parishes.  Part of this is due to natural social behavior.  Some people have a magnetic personality that helps draw people closer to them.  The goal, then, is to always be humble with these gifts.

Reaching higher status levels often leads us to one sin: pride.  Sirach 10:13 reminds us:

For pride is the reservoir of sin, a source which runs over with vice…

We must be careful not to allow pride to creep into our lives and stay focused on what made us popular among our fellow parishioners.  We may be great speakers, evangelizers, or workers for Christ, but that only comes through the grace of God.

This verse came at the perfect time because I was just having a conversation with a close family member, who told me about a recent experience he had.  While recruiting new members into the RCIA process, he gave a speech to the parish.  The speech went very well, and many commented on his abilities; however, instead of taking pride in this, he gave all glory to God – as we all should.

God gives us all gifts.  Sometimes, those gifts may make us popular among our fellow parishioners and Catholics, but the Holy Spirit, who gave us these gifts in the first place, deserves the honor and glory that come from them.  If other parishioners do look up to you, it’s by God’s grace alone – not yours.

Also, don’t forget what it feels like to be the new kid at your parish.  Before you were a part of the in crowd, you were probably just hoping someone would say hello to you.  As our status within the parish grows, we often forget what it felt like the first time we stepped through the front doors.  Hold tight to that humility.

In the end, we are all just trying to reach the same goal: Heaven.  Whether we are part of the in crowd, or we’re more like the new kid quietly going to Mass each week, no one is a better Catholic than another.  Do not let the sin of pride allow you to take the glory that is truly due to the Holy Spirit.  Remember: it’s not a popularity contest.

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