Oct. 23, 2016: 30th Sunday Ordinary C
Click to hear Audio Homily
Have you ever heard of the saying, “Be patient with me. God is not finished with me yet!” It takes humility to acknowledge that we are not masterpieces, yet. True humility helps us to see ourselves as we really are in God's eyes and it helps us to seek God's help and mercy. When someone is humble, he is able to relate to himself and others with kindness and respect. On the other hand, pride hinders us from seeking forgiveness and being charitable to others. It isn’t that God cannot or will not forgive the sin of pride but that the proud person will not ask for God’s forgiveness because they are confident that they do not need it. Pride is one vice from which no one is immune, and it is one vice which everyone hates when he sees it in someone else. The irony is that most of us Christians never imagine that we are guilty ourselves. If there is one sin that Jesus condemned the most, it is the sin of pride. If humility allows us to pray to God honestly and sincerely heart-to-heart, pride, on the other hand, makes the person deaf to God’s compassionate voice.
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells a parable of two two men praying to show us how prayer and humility are inextricably linked. Two men were praying in the holy temple--a highly respected church-goer called a Pharisee and a tax-collector, a profession generally despised because it symbolized dishonesty, lying, and cheating. The Pharisee went to the temple not really to pray but to inform God how good he was and how God should be thankful that there are men like him on earth. As we say colloquially, he was “full of himself.” His pride inspired him to look down upon others. The tax collector, on the other hand, felt unworthy even to look towards heaven, a place he felt that he could never reach. He beat his breast as a sign of regret and confessed that he was a sinner. His only hope for salvation was the infinite mercy of God.
The humility exemplified by the tax collector at prayer, in contrast to the Pharisee (who represents you and me), is grounded in an awareness of his own need for God’s mercy and grace and his willingness to receive! The passage immediately following this parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is the beautiful scene in which Jesus welcomes and blesses the children and then tells his disciples: “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Consistently throughout the Gospel of Luke Jesus reminds us that God is eager to give us the kingdom. Indeed, it is in our midst! But it can only be embraced, not seized!
The reality is that we cannot brag about our love for God because we fail Him daily. But we can brag about His love for us because He never fails. God has given us our entire lifetime here on earth to be transformed into His likeness. When we look at ourselves now, we are far from what we once were, but not yet what we are going to be. All of us are sinners who are loved. At times we can be the biggest hypocrite ever and sometimes we backslide, stumble, stray onto the wrong path, and fall. Yet the good news is that God is working in us to slowly straighten us out. And since no one is above reproach and everyone is under construction, we need to be patient with others whom we find lacking in graces and avoid being prideful and self-righteous.