Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday word, 24 Oct 2010

30tth Sunday of the Year C (24 Oct 2010)

Sir 35. 12-14, 16-18; Ps 34; 2Tm 4. 6-8, 16-18; Lk 18. 9-14

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

The Lord Will Rescue Me...

...Those words we heard from Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy offer us a way in to today’s scriptures and to the mystery we celebrate. Do we really believe the Lord will rescue us? By “believe” I don’t mean a mental nod to the Lord’s desire to save us. By “do we believe” I mean, do we live out of the Lord’s desire to save us, does the Lord’s desire affect how we live, how we choose, how we respond to others?

To live convinced the Lord will rescue us doesn’t mean we have everything figured out. It points to our attitude, our disposition that we’re in God’s presence and God is present to us in everything, inviting us to come closer. That attitude and disposition, that we’re in God’s presence, God who creates us and blesses us each moment, calms and centers us in life’s chaotic storms. This tranquility registers as feeling accompanied in doubt and dismay, as well as in joy and relief.

The characters in Jesus’ familiar parable, the Pharisee and the tax-agent, illustrate this from one who really believed the Lord will rescue him as well as from one who didn’t believe that. Who do you think really believed and who didn’t? Consider the two points I mentioned: to believe the Lord will rescue me doesn’t mean that I have everything all figured out; it means I have an attitude, a disposition that I am in God’s loving presence.

The Pharisee was convinced that he was not like the rest of people, naming three particulars, greedy, dishonest and adulterous. Why he fasted twice weekly and tithed! We know from our experience the Pharisee was mistaken. First, who of us hasn’t felt greedy, dishonest or adulterous? We may have restrained ourselves from acting out those and other trespasses yet all of us fight temptations; and we give in to some.

While tithing was encouraged and practiced, fasting twice a week wasn’t the norm. No one was obliged to fast twice a week. The Pharisee claimed he surpassed others! The tax-agent made no claims at all. Nor did he give God a speech; he prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ He was clear about that alone. He was honest.

Second: to believe the Lord will rescue us means we have an attitude, a disposition that God accompanies us. The Pharisee was in the temple, but he spoke [his] prayer to himself. Plus, he had an eye on the tax-agent: not only am I not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—[I’m not] even like this tax collector. Giving God a speech while looking over his shoulder at whomever else was in the temple: that’s talent! It isn’t prayer. The tax-agent did not presume to tell God anything, only to implore God’s mercy.

As his simple, profound prayer showed, the tax-agent truly believed the Lord would rescue him. The Pharisee’s speech, on the other hand, showed he trusted in his efforts with their consequences—not focusing on God but on others, about whom he was suspicious. This was Jesus’ intent to point out that our own righteousness does not get us far or save us.

Trusting our efforts, as if they were not God’s gifts to us first, is a far cry from living out of the Lord’s desire to save us. To trust exclusively in our efforts is a universal human temptation. For some their efforts are their idols. Our individualistic and consumerist society makes personal efforts one’s idols subtly and too easily. Do we readily go before God asking that God save us, that God be merciful to us? The Lord will not delay in showing mercy to those who ask for it honestly. This is Jesus’ way of being humble: alert; active; and aware of God accompanying us in life. Here’s a good practice.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, allow yourself to grow aware of the Trinity accompanying you. Ask the tax-agent to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus: praise Jesus for being our God’s presence in our flesh & blood; ask Jesus to help you be his disciple who is more alert, active and aware of Jesus saving you and inviting you to be his heart, hands, head and feet as you journey through life. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, forgive we forgive others on our lips, shape us to live the compassion we ask Jesus to show us. Jesus’ patient love justifies us not our efforts. Putting the gift of Jesus’ patient love into action draws others, and us, closer to Jesus and one another.

Wiki-images by Johannes Böckh & Thomas Mirtsch of a fresco of the Pharisee and Tax-Collector and by Joachim Köhler of a stained-glass window detail of the Tax-Collector are used according to the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

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