Homily, October 23, 2016. The 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The story of the Pharisee and the tax collector is one we have heard often over time. It is paired with the reading from Sirach about God as a just judge, looking out for everyone and Paul in Timothy explaining how he gave his life to the Lord. If we turn to the gospel story, we first should realize that the Pharisee was not a bad person. All the acts and sacrifices he describes are good works and even expected of someone of his place in society. Yet, in the end Jesus criticized the Pharisee because of where he was and what he said. His prayer is full of “I’s”. His concern is for himself, his well-being, not for others or the community. His list is one of what would be expected of a Pharisee, a form almost of self praise. The tax collector on the other hand, was in a way fearful and acknowledged that as a sinful man he was unworthy. His prayer was to ask for God’s mercy. In the end, Jesus said the tax collector left justified in his prayer. God judges in his own way and time. He is a just judge who knows each of us intimately, knows who we are and how we think. He knows our actions and how we relate to others. He judges us not only on what we are expected to do, but also when we fall short of what we can and should do. It is ironic, that in almost all that we do, we can never reach perfection. In our faith and in our love and actions toward others, we can always fall short. I once had a professor who called it the uneasy conscience of a Christian, always asking and suggesting, “can I do more?” Should we be satisfied saying I did the best I could? Sometimes we must be, while at other times, we just might be called to keep going. In all our lives, everyday brings different and even new things into our lives. How we meet and live our lives meeting new things and people and challenges is how we witness and live our faith. Using our prayer life in a humble, realistic way seeking God’s mercy will lead us also to justification.