Homily for 30th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

posted Oct 24, 2016, 11:25 AM by Church Office   [ updated Oct 24, 2016, 11:25 AM by Michelle Massung ]


            Today we see Jesus compare the prayers to God of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisees were members of a sect of Jews that were very strict in their observance of the Jewish law and as a result, they felt they had earned a place in God’s kingdom.  The Pharisee stood which was the proper posture for prayer, asking for God’s blessing for all that he had done the fasting, the tithing, and praying. Fasting was an act of self- humiliation in order to gain attention from others.  They felt if others came to their aid, how much more would God, an all loving and caring God, come to their aid.  Tithing was giving 10% of your entire income in sacrifice at the temple in thanksgiving for all God had done for that person.  Yet, the Pharisee is judgmental and self-righteous.  He deems himself not to be like the rest of humanity, greedy, dishonest, adulterous, or like the tax collector.  This is where his prayer intention goes all wrong.  He may have done more than what was required of him under Jewish law, but he did the extra to bring attention to himself and to get God to bless him for his efforts.  He feels God owes him.

            Compare this to the tax collector.  He is considered a second class citizen because he works for the Roman Empire and yet, still maintains his Jewish heritage and religion, He stands off to the side because he feels he is not worthy to approach God due to his sinfulness. His sinfulness is public knowledge because he cheats others out of what they really owe to the Romans. He is ashamed and is very repentant for his actions and begs God to forgive him. He wants to speak directly to God and asks God for mercy and forgiveness.  He is dependent on God whereas the Pharisee feels that God is dependent on him and his good deeds.  The tax collector humbles himself while the Pharisee exalts himself. 

            Let’s take a slightly different look at these two men.  The Pharisee is following the laws of the church and even exceeds what is required of him.  He is a faithful follower of the Jewish faith and has not committed any real sin.  The tax collector is a public sinner and is despised by the people.  Do we want to be known as someone that follows the church’s teachings or to be known as a sinner? So now, how many people want to be the Pharisee and how many want to be the tax collector?

            Jesus gives us the answer by stating that the tax collector will be rewarded for his humility and the Pharisee will be punished for his pride.  Humility is the foundation of our prayer life.  We acknowledge how great God is compared to us and we are dependent on God in our lives.  Pride is the most ruinous of sins because it opens the door to so many other sins such as gossiping, greed, sins of the flesh, being judgmental, and many others.  The tax collector has been forgiven for his sins and the Pharisee has not been forgiven for his sin of pride. 

            So how do we approach God in our prayers, like the Pharisee or the tax collector?  Do we ask God to bless us with good health and good fortune as a result of all the good things we have done, such as coming to mass, saying our prayers and giving to the church? Or do we approach God as sinners and ask for his mercy and forgiveness?  Do we give him thanks for the most important gift of all, his son for our redemption, something we did not have to earn or do anything for; it was a free gift for us to accept? My belief is that we do a little of both.  When we bring our petitions before God, don’t we want God to answer them because we have been good and faithful servants of the church? Shouldn’t we be rewarded for our faithfulness to God? Can’t we ask God to come into our lives and to do what we want him to do because we have been good followers of his commandments? No, there is no debt that God owes us for our obedience to his teachings.  Our reward will be to spend eternity with him.  We can’t try to control God; rather, we need to let God control us. This is true humility and trust in God.  Humility is recognizing that all we have comes from God and what we do with these gifts is our gift back to God.  We are all sinners and owe him a huge debt of gratitude for sending his son to suffer and die for our salvation.  And we did nothing to earn this or deserve this.  It is God’s free gift to us.  For this, we should be eternally grateful. 

            So how do you develop more humility? It comes by putting the needs of others ahead of your needs and depending more on God, than on yourself for what you need.  You can start by doing little things around the house, or office, or school to help others.  It may be as simple as giving someone a compliment, or a smile.  You can have an attitude of cooperation and not of animosity.  Humility is a process and a way of life by putting other’s needs ahead of your own.  This habit takes time to develop and it means that God has to come into your life to control you and not for you to control God by your prayers. This is a different perspective and takes a little time to adjust to this way of thinking. 

            My conclusion is that I hope and pray that you are faithful stewards to God like the Pharisee and do it with the humility of the tax collector.