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Homilies by Father Jaimon Dominic » Notes » Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016

  • Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016

    Posted by Mary Wilson October 22, 2016 - Category: Spirituality - 846 views - 0 comments - 1 like -   #humility 

    The main theme of today’s Gospel is that true humility must be the hallmark of our prayers. However, the central focus of today’s parable is not on prayer itself, but rather on pride, humility and the role of grace in our salvation.
    Today’s gospel is one to which every believer needs to pay close attention. It is the story of two believers, a Pharisee and a tax collector. It is important to underline the facts that both men were believers in the same God, both belonged to the same religion and both worshiped in the same temple. Both men were active believers who participated in temple worship and said their daily prayers. But what do we see? At the end of the worship one of them went home at peace with God but the other did not. We all, believers in God, need to pay attention to this story not only to learn the secret of offering a worship acceptable to God but also of leading a life of faith that leads to justification and not disappointment at the end of the day.

    It will help us to appreciate the point of this parable if we try to understand a little bit more of who the Pharisees were. Pharisees were very disciplined and devout men of religion. They were serious-minded believers who had committed themselves to a life of regular prayer and observance of God’s Law. In fact, they went beyond the requirements of the law. They fasted twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays, even though the law only required people to fast once a year, on the Day of Atonement. They gave tithes of all their income and not just of the required parts. Few Christians today can measure up to the visible moral standards of the Pharisees.

    Tax collectors, on the other hand, were generally regarded as people of low moral standards. Because tax collectors worked for the pagan Romans, mixed up with them and constantly handled their unclean money they were said to be in a state of ritual uncleanliness. As far as the religion of the day was concerned, tax collectors were public sinners on the highway to hell. But the tax collectors knew that the voice of people is not always the voice of God. They still hoped for salvation not on the merit of any religious or moral achievements of theirs but on the gracious mercy of God.

    Believing in God does not really save anybody. James tells us that the devil himself believes in God and trembles with fear (James 2:19). Rather, what really matters is what people believe about God and how their faith in God affects their view of themselves and of others. The Pharisees believed in a discriminating God who loves good people and hates bad people. People behave like the God they believe in. So the Pharisees quickly learn to love only good people like themselves and look down with contempt on bad people and sinners like the tax collectors. He pats himself on his back and reminds God that he religiously fulfills his works and obligations. He trusted in himself that he was righteous and regarded others with contempt. He did not recognize his own need for God; convinced of his own righteousness; appeared to be caught up in prayer, he leaves with nothing but his own spiritual arrogance. Jesus told this parable against the Pharisees because they “trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt”. The tax collector, on the other hand, trusted not in himself or in anything he had done but only in God’s mercy. Standing far off, he would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”. This is the man who went home at peace with God and not the self-righteous Pharisee.

    Like the Pharisee and the tax collector we too have come to God’s house to offer worship and prayers. Like them we too hope to go home at the end of this service reconciled and at peace with God, THEN there is a journey we all have to make, a pilgrimage we are all called to undertake, and that is the journey from pride to humility. That is the journey or pilgrimage that the Pharisee in today’s Gospel needs to make. His statement in today’s Gospel shows that he is in need of such a spiritual journey. Currently his point of departure is, “I thank you God that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and especially that I am not like this tax-collector here” but his destination needs to be that of the tax-collector, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

    In Vienna in Austria there is a church in which the former ruling family in Austria, the Hapsburgs, are buried. When royal funerals used to arrive, the mourners knocked at the door of the church to be allowed in. A priest inside would ask ‘Who is it that desires admission here?’ A guard would call out, ‘His apostolic majesty, the emperor’. The priest would answer, ‘I don’t know him’. They would knock a second time, and again the priest would ask who was there. The funeral guard outside would announce, ‘The highest emperor’. A second time the priest would say, ‘I don’t know him’. A third time they would knock on the door and the priest would ask ‘Who is it?’ The third time the answer would be, ‘A poor sinner, your brother.’
    Image via Creative Commons/Flickr/pcstratman