True doctrine dispels arrogance

Bishop of Rome and Great Western Father of the Church

An excerpt from his Moral Reflections on Job, Book 23-24.

Wednesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Listen, Job, to what I say and ponder all my words. The teaching of the arrogant has this characteristic: they do not know how to introduce their teaching humbly and they cannot convey correctly to others the things they understand correctly themselves. With their words they betray what they teach; they give the impression that they live on lofty heights from which they look down disdainfully on those whom they are teaching; they regard the latter as inferiors, to whom they do not deign to listen as they talk; indeed they scarcely deign to talk to them at all—they simply lay down the law.

To teachers of this kind the Lord through the prophet says rightly: But you will rule them with severity and with power. There is no doubt that such as are prone not to correct their subjects with quiet reasoning, but to compel them to change by rough and domineering methods, rule with severity and power.

On the contrary true doctrine all the more effectively shuns the voice of arrogance through reflection, in which it pursues the arrogant teacher himself with the arrows of its words. It ensures that the pride which it attacks in the hearts of those listening to the sacred words will not in fact be preached by arrogant conduct. For true doctrine tries both to teach by words and to demonstrate by living example—humility, which is the mother and mistress of virtues. Its goal is to express humility among the disciples of truth more by deeds than by words.

Accordingly, when addressing the Thessalonians, Paul is oblivious of his own eminent dignity as an apostle; he actually says: We became as little children in your midst. Similarly, the apostle Peter enjoins: Be always prepared to satisfy everybody who asks a reason for the hope which is in you, and by adding the words, with a good conscience, speak gently and respectfully, Peter draws attention to the manner in which sacred doctrine should be taught.

When he tells his disciples: These things command and teach with all power, Paul really recommends the credibility that goes hand in hand with good behavior rather than the domineering exercise of power. When one practices first and preaches afterwards, one is really teaching with power. Doctrine loses credibility, if conscience tethers the tongue. Paul, therefore, in the saying quoted above, does not refer to the power of lofty rhetoric but to the confidence elicited by good deeds. Of the Lord, too, it is said: He taught with authority unlike the Scribes and the Pharisees. He alone in a unique and sovereign way spoke from the power of his goodness because no evil weakness led him into sin. For he had from the power of his own divine nature what he gave to us through the sinlessness of his human nature.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen