Many SparrowsFr. Barnabas Powell
The gradual shift in modern educational philosophy to a “self esteem” emphasis is nearly complete. From the math standards that discourage teachers from “correcting” incorrect answers to the ball fields where “we don’t keep score” so no one “feels” bad, this shift is now producing consequences of its own.
To be sure, this shift in philosophy is motivated by the best of intentions, but, as in many of our human endeavors, those unintended consequences usually “surprise” all of us. While attempting to “correct” what we see as a flaw, we make matters worse by creating even more problems in our constant social experimentation. The problem is the real consequences show up in real people’s lives. And then it shapes the entire society and enshrines these spiritual and emotional poverties as virtues!
No wonder we humans always tend to be our own worst enemies, and no wonder the message of Christ is such a radical message for this upside down world of ours.
Just look at today’s Gospel Lesson. In Matthew 10:23-31 the Lord reveals the true source of authentic “self-esteem.” He says “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:28-31
Before this section, He has just told His disciples to go everywhere spreading His message and He has told them they would be persecuted and driven from town to town. The disciples are to be like their Master and see all this rejection of the message of Christ as the reality of the spiritual poverty in the world. But all this opposition isn’t meant to discourage or dissuade them. It isn’t meant to crush their “self-esteem!”
After all, we are not to fear them that can merely kill the body! Doesn’t our Creed declare the resurrection of the dead? Isn’t the central message of our faith the destruction of death by death? So, if death is defeated then that threat doesn’t hold us in fear any longer! Our greatest threat to our real self esteem comes from that which deludes us into remaining a slave to the fear of death. That is what destroys the soul! And that is what steals our true self worth from us! Your Father sees every sparrow that falls to the ground, and you are worth more than many sparrows. In fact, even the hairs of your head are numbered by the Lord Who KNOWS you, and this is where your real self worth lies; in your intimate connection with your Lord.
Today, no amount of “self esteem” support based on making you “feel” better about yourself will ever overcome the tug of the slavery of death in this world. It simply isn’t strong enough to overcome the real soul sickness we all suffer from. No, my dearest, your real self esteem will always be found in a relationship with God. How can it be anywhere else since you were created in His image. All the shallow “science” of “self esteem” in this world will only reinforce the sick narcissism of silly immaturity. Only the esteem that flows from Him Who is Love Himself will ever set you truly free to be who you really are! That is where your best and most purposeful work needs to be!