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Friday, 21 October 2016

Reflection/Homily: Thirtieth (30th) Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Year C

Theme: Humility: The Path to Righteousness
Today’s gospel reading (Luke 18:9-14) presents us with the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican who went to the Temple to pray. According to this parable, the Pharisee thanked God for his righteousness while the tax collector being mindful of his sins asked God for pardon. Surprisingly, Jesus approved only the prayer of the Publican and was dissatisfied with the prayer of the Pharisee. Ordinarily speaking, there is nothing wrong in thanking God for living a righteous life. This Pharisee is supposedly a devout Jew who lived even more than he was expected. He recognized the need for thanksgiving and went ahead to thank God. As the object of his thanksgiving, he presented his religious credentials.

However, there are a number of issues associated with his prayer. He was not wrong in his methodology but in his disposition. In his prayer, we see a feeling of superiority over others especially sinners. When we flaunt our religious credentials, we are no better than this Pharisee. Most often, we boast of how piously we have lived our lives. A catholic in the shoes of this Pharisee is likely to thank God for being a good catholic and not a protestant or non-Christian. He would boast of receiving communion, going for confession and fulfilling his financial obligations.

Though it is good to keep a clean religious record, we have to recognize that our piety does not make us superior to others. That is why we have to shun every feeling of vain glory in our spiritual lives. This is totally against the attitude of those who for one donation or the other made to the Church expect to exert undue influence in pastoral affairs. Some of us because of a service rendered to the Church think they have outweighed everybody in charity. 

More so, his prayer portrays a claim of total responsibility for the good he did. We are like the Pharisee when we take all the glory for the good we do. Without God we can do nothing and it is through His grace that we are able to do all things (cf. Phil. 4:13). Because he failed to recognize the impact of grace in his life, he had a myopic understanding of sin. In justifying his righteousness, the Pharisee was only interested in the good he did and the evil he did not do. He was not concerned with the good he failed to do. Thus, he did not take cognizance of the sin of omission. We are like this Pharisee when we concentrate on the good we do and the evil we avoid but fail to realize the good we fail to do. A frequent examination of conscience would help us.

Another interesting aspect of this parable is that while two men went to the temple to pray, one went home at peace with God and the other didn’t. Ever since the sacrifice of Cain and Abel, there exists in the Church an acceptable and unacceptable pattern of sacrifice and prayer. The difference lies in the disposition of the offerer. Christ in offering his eternal sacrifice taught us to do that with humility. Humility therefore is a necessary condition for an effective prayer. Humility gives us the right disposition for prayer. The first reading (Sirach 35:12-14, 16-19) reminds us that God will certainly listen to the prayer of those that turn to Him with humility and sincerity.

Beloved friends, what is your disposition when you approach God in prayer? Do we feel we are qualified for whatever we ask from Him based on how we have lived our lives? Do we have a feeling of vain glory or do we proudly justify ourselves? Today the Lord invites us to approach Him with humility and contrition. He wants to see us accuse ourselves that he may set us free. Therefore, let us ask God for the grace to always appear before Him with humility and contrition so that at the end, His grace may qualify us for the crown of unfading glory which St. Paul talks about in the second reading (2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-18). Happy Sunday for God loves you.

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