Pride Goeth Before a Fall
Third Sunday of Advent, December 13, 2020
Aesop tells the fable of a frog who wanted desperately to escape the confines of his small pond to see the larger world, to climb to new heights. So one day the frog asked a stork standing at the edge of the pond if he could hitch a ride with the stork on the bird’s next flight. The stork agreed, but as they tried to fly away from the pond the frog soon learned that he could not grip the stork’s body tight enough with his small hands, and he kept falling back into the muddy water.
Finally the frog came up with the idea to hang on to the stork’s skinny leg with his mouth. When the stork took flight, the frog’s bite held firm, and soon they were flying high over the earth. They were thrilled at the beauty of the earth below. What a strange looking pair they must have been, the stork with a frog dangling from his leg. But as they flew over some bird watchers, the frog heard one exclaim, “What an ingenious pair of animals! Have you ever seen such a sight? How very clever animals are. I wonder which one of them came up with that idea? To which the frog, swelling with pride at the compliment, and wanting to claim credit for the idea, blurted out, “I DID.”
Of course, he realized too late that when he opened his mouth to speak, he also lost his grip on the flying stork. And so Aesop finished the fable with the proverb: “Beware, pride goeth before a fall.”
It is hard to be humble. Especially if you are a genius like the frog. And yet the great lives in human history are usually marked by great humility, aware that they are where they are by the help of many others. For example a MVP star athlete will praise the rest of the team without whose help the star athlete wouldn’t be a star athlete.
Today we hear the story of John the Baptist. This time written by St. John. Last week we heard of John the Baptist from Mark’s Gospel. Mark’s Gospel emphasized John’s scruffy appearance and Old Testament preaching style, whereas John’s Gospel emphasized John’s humility in the midst of his popularity.
John was attracting a lot of attention. The rumor mill was running in overtime. Could John be the long awaited Messiah? How tempting it must have been for John to just accept the adoration of the crowd, or at least to ignore it and thereby keep the rumors going strong. But John the Baptist resisted that temptation, and insisted that he was the voice announcing the Messiah. He was the announcer, not the main act, he was the appetizer, not the entrée.
Have you ever been in a similar situation? Have you ever been tempted to take credit for something you didn’t do? It is so easy to give in to that temptation.
John was the perfect example of humility. He wasn’t enamored by his popularity, he didn’t let it go to his head, he just kept passing it on to where it belonged.
The moral is: Be humble. If you don’t deserve the credit, don’t take it. If you do deserve the credit, share it.
In conclusion, remember the lesson of the frog and the stork. There is no limit how high a person might fly, or how far they might go, if they do not mind who gets the credit. Amen.
Isaiah 61:1–2a, 10–11
I will rejoice heartily in the LORD, my being exults in my God.
1 Thessalonians 5:16–24
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
John 1:6–8, 19–28
[John the Baptist said,] “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.”’