THE SUNDAY GOSPEL: THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
Luke 18:9 – 14
Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
PASTOR’S REFLECTION by Father Mike Joly: THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
“The Meaning In being Human, Assuming My Own Sins or Acknowledging Everyone Else’s”
There are certainly plenty of sins outside of me, in other people’s lives. There are transgressions and delusions, apostates and false teachers. There is no shortage of opportunity NOT to acknowledge my own sins before the Lord and to avoid changing in me what needs to change. There are plenteous occasions for me to pray “ABOUT” other people’s sinfulness and frailties. Unfortunately for the one who does not acknowledge her/his own sin, there is no discovery of one’s true meaning; there is no finding Jesus Christ in a personal way; there is no Savior at work in me.
Pope Francis, our Holy Father, in his beautiful and piercing reality check tells everyone: “Sin, properly assumed, is the privileged place of personally finding Jesus Christ our Savior, of rediscovering the deep meaning he has for me.” (A Sense of Mission, October 2, 2013) There is a beautiful freedom and humanity hidden inside of one’s willingness to grapple with personal sin. We have to acknowledge our own sinfulness and the toll it takes on our loving communion with Christ, if we are to understand the meaning of what it is to be human. Consider these facts about our own sin:
1. My sin must be properly assumed by me,
2. It is then the “privileged place” for me to encounter personally the power and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. I then become more in touch with what it is to be a true human being.
Failure to acknowledge and properly assume my own sin leads to a lack of repentance for my sin. And a lack of repentance leads to a refusal of divine forgiveness. And the result is a tragic lack of human meaning in my life. A lack of acknowledgement leads to a lack of repentance, which leads to a refusal of God’s mercy, which results in a human life without human meaning.
The tax collector in today’s Gospel passage “properly assumed” the state of his own sinfulness. This is good news for this guy. He is spiritually in touch with reality. He is correct. This means God is at work in him. Even from the last pew, this man enjoys “the privileged place of personally finding Jesus Christ our Savior.” He prays with awareness and sincerity, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 8:13).
It is equally good to sit either in the first pew or in the last. Physical location in the place doesn’t matter. What’s crucial is that someone is spiritually aware, powerfully plugged in, repentant, forgiven and renewed in Christ. This is the “privileged place of personally finding Jesus Christ,” of which Pope Francis speaks. My sin properly assumed by me creates this sacred moment and place for this encounter to happen.
The Pharisee who occupies the front pew in today’s Gospel may have as well sat in the middle or in the back. It doesn’t matter. He or she is simply not in a true or holy internal spiritual place. The prayer is lost; it is misguided and prayer IS ABOUT everyone else around this person and God. The soul. “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous” (Luke 18: 14). A more true prayer and a more effective prayer may have gone like this:
“I praise you Almighty God for your infinite mercy. Your infinite love for me, in spite of my sin, of which you O God are fully aware, draws me to you more and more deeply. You search me and you know me through and through, yet you leave heaven just to be with me and to gain me back. Have mercy on me so that I may be free and healed of my sin for which I am truly sorry. Reclaim me for yourself so that I may give you full glory in how I live and in how I worship you. I love you with all of my being and will not be separated from you. You are the eternal Lover of My Soul.