Catholicism: where second place is also first place.

Our culture influences us to be number one. We want to get into the best college, get the best grades, get the best job, and get the best salaries. We strive for the best things in life: the best family, the best house, the best car, and the best mobile phone. All of these are good of course as it drives us towards excellence. God placed this characteristic in us so we do great things. We, however, must be careful that we don’t get too ingrained in this “me” culture-of-being-best that it affects our spiritual life where we must come second.

If Christ is our King, then he should always come first in our lives. Everything is ordered to him – our decisions, our purchases, our love life, our professional life – everything. If he is our king, then we live in a kingdom, not a democracy. We don’t have voting power to overrule his teachings or commandments. When God determines an act to be sinful or immoral, we can’t lobby in congress or in the Senate to overturn the decision. It simply just doesn’t work that way. If God is in first place, we can only accept what he gives us or teaches us, or command us to do.

People with sinful pride can never accept second place; they must always come first. They either usurp God’s rightful position, become their own god, and relegate God into second place – perhaps, even, the last place. Or they totally dismiss him altogether saying there is no such thing as God.

Being second was repugnant to the fallen angels, so they rebelled and separated themselves from God. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit so that they will be like gods. It seems they were offended that they couldn’t determine for themselves what is good and evil. (Genesis 3:4-5) It is this rebellion that creates chaos in the natural order of things.

Humility is needed to accept second place. The word humility comes from the word “humus,” which means “earth.” We cannot but recall Adam whose name comes from the Hebrew adamah, which means earth because God created him from the soil of the earth. It reminds us that we are but mere creatures, not gods. There is a hierarchy and we are not on top: God is.

We can combat pride through prayer. The act of praying reminds us there is someone above us. It ingrains in us a sense of dependence on a higher being. We can also combat pride by obedience to the Ten Commandments and the precepts of the Church. The act of obeying someone other than us chisels our pride away and transforms it to humility.

Now, here is the beautiful crazy thing: in Catholicism, the Church is the bride of Christ. It is “one-flesh” with him. So if we put him in first place, by virtue of our oneness with him, we too are in first place – not in nature or authority, but in the sharing of his divine life. What more can a mere creature, made from the dust of the earth, ask if not to live the life of his creator who is supremely superior in every way. It is only in humbling ourselves that we can achieve anything like this. It becomes clear what Christ says, “those who are last will be first, and those who are first will be last.”


Photo by Sebastian Voortman from Pexels

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Posted by Joby Provido

Joby finished Theology courses from the University of Notre Dame. He is a contributing writer at, and teaches in the De La Salle College of St. Benilde where he engages students in conversations about religion, pop-culture, and food.