The Rule of Benedict’s chapter on humility opens with verse 18:14 from Luke; “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Throughout Chapter 7 of the rule, Benedict cites the psalms-
“Oh God, my heart is not exalted; my eyes are not lifted up.”
“God searches our hearts and minds…from afar you know my thoughts…I shall be blameless in God’s sight if I guard myself from my own wickedness.”
“The Holy One looks on us to see whether we understand and seek God.”
“To you I have acknowledged my offense; my faults I have not concealed. I have said: Against myself I will report my faults to you, and you have forgiven the wickedness of my heart.”
“Truly I am a worm, …scorned and despised by all.”
The Pharisee may have been allowed to be deluded about himself. He was, perhaps, a narcissist. Not the popular self-loving perception of ‘narcissist,’ but the secretly empty, pitiful, projecting person. “Whatever you are pushing against, you are stuck to,” says Werner Erhard. “Greedy, dishonest, adulterous” had its counterweight; “be merciful to me a sinner.”
When Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees, he was pointing out two different components, exalting and despising. The problem was in the despising, the contempt for others. The unmerciful are incapable of recognizing mercy. The tax collector may have done much worse deeds than the Pharisee, but the dispositions of their hearts were very different.
In humility we can see ourselves authentically, as we are; flawed, needing mercy. We can recognize mercy and exhibit it. As Shakespeare said, “Mercy is nobilities’ true badge.”
It is in mercy that we are godlike.