Sunday of 30th Week of Ordinary C

Two Men, Two Prayers, Two Attitudes, Two Verdicts

Joke: Sunday Pharisees:  "I never come to this Church for Sunday Mass," boasted a wandering parishioner to his pastor. "Perhaps you have noticed that Father?" "Yes, I have noticed that," said the pastor. "Well, the reason I don't come is that there are so many hypocrites here." "Oh, don't let that keep you away," replied the pastor with a smile. "There's always room for one more."

In all today’s readings, especially the first reading and the Gospel, the Church puts together to remind us the words of Jesus at the conclusion of the parable reported in today’s Gospel saying, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” So, what does it mean to be humbled? What does it mean to be exalted? What is the difference between the two? Why are we invited to learn to be humbled? Or rather, how would we come before God? & why would we not come before God? Put all these questions in the presence.

To answer these questions, let us examine the two people mentioned in today’s Gospel, the Pharisee and the tax collector.

Pharisee, at the time of Jesus, was the one who knew the laws and observed strictly both to the traditional and written laws and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity. He was often considered as a self-righteous or hypocritical person. Tax collector, on the other hand, was a person who collected unpaid taxes from other people, oppressing & cheating others, esp. the widows & the orphans. He was often portrayed as a sinner at Jesus’ time.

Recognizing their social status, they came to the temple of the Lord in different attitudes. The Pharisee raised his head up, spoke the prayer to thank God for who he was, but then pointed his finger to criticize the rest of humanity as greedy, dishonest, and adulterous. The tax collector, on the other hand, recognized his sinful social status, couldn’t even raise his head in prayer, but continued to beat his chest for what he had done and who he was. Unlike the Pharisee didn’t need the mercy of the Lord, the tax collector prayed, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” These two different attitudes in prayer, the Lord Jesus commanded that the tax collector would be exalted because of his humility, not the Pharisee who exalted himself that would be brought low.

With these two different men, two different prayers, two different attitudes, and two different verdicts, of whom have you and I identified ourselves with? Have we ever seen ourselves as the Pharisee? What makes us think or believe that we are better than the rest of the humanity, or at least, we are better than our parents or those who are superior to us? When we identified ourselves better than the rest of humanity, aren’t we considered ourselves as God since God is the Author of humanity? Does God know who we are? If he knew us, has he ever listened to us? If we prayed and we haven’t received what we prayed for, has he been absent in our prayers? How would we pray in order for him to listen? Or what attitudes we need to have when we come to pray?

Listen to the wisdom of Sirach in today’s first reading saying, “The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphannor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.” Widow and orphan are the defenseless people recognized the need for God, so God becomes their only help in that culture. Their persistent prayer is heard and reaches the heavens. Their acknowledging the need for God in their prayer that pierces through the clouds, and “it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.” How beautiful it is the wisdom of Sirach invites us to acknowledge the need for God by humbling ourselves and come to God in our persistent prayer.

Have you and I ever acknowledged the need for God? When we acknowledged the need for God in our lives, but we haven’t received what we asked for in our prayer, have you and I prayed according to God’s will or according to our own will? How would we pray according to God’s will? Would you give a scorpion to your children when they kept asking you for it?

Two different men, two different prayers, and two different attitudes result in two different verdicts. How would you come to God in your prayers today? Decision is yours.


Weekend Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Nguyen

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