Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
27 October 2019
Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus
This Gospel really isn’t fair. It puts us in a trick place.
We’ve heard this parable so many times, and even if you haven’t…it’s basic meaning is pretty clear: “see that Pharisee? Don’t be that guy.”
And then we all think, “Yeah. Thank goodness I’m not like that guy.”
But then, in saying that, we remember that the Pharisee looked at the tax collector and said, “Hey, thank goodness, I’m glad I’m not like that guy.”
And then, just like that, we’ve become “that guy.”
Jesus, this really isn’t fair. I can’t rejoice with you in the fact that I’m not “that guy” without becoming “that guy.”
And the Lord says, “maybe the point of this isn’t to rejoice in the fact that you are or are not ‘that guy’.”
Well, Jesus, what’s the point, then?
And Jesus looks at us, and perhaps says: “I don’t care that you aren’t the Pharisee. I want to know why you’re not the tax collector.”
Ouch, another burn from the Lord God.
I think he’s right, of course. Jesus is, after all, very smart about these things.
Recall the story of St. Paul, previously known as Saul…
The second reading can be summarized with the verse before the Gospel today: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, and entrusting to us the message of salvation.”
In Jesus – in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – a definitive and final new age has begun. The choice is plain: will you accept the salvation being offered to you in Christ, and let it change every single part of your life, or not?
To say yes to this requires that we become lowly, that we become poor, that we become humble, that we allow our firm stake in this world to pass away.
To say no to Jesus, to say no to his grace, to reject what has been given to us in baptism and in the other sacraments, to say no to this is the beginning of the end of the end for us. The result of this choice remains the only means by which can ever be separated from God; and the state of existing in separation from God is called hell.
God does not play favorites. The same chance, the same love, the same life, the same gift is offered to every person, no matter who or where they are. The message of salvation is being entrusted to every single one of us. But, so says Sirach in the first reading, God does hear the cry of the oppressed, the weak, and the lowly; indeed, “the Lord hears the cry of poor.”
Sometimes I think that being lowly means being passive, living with a false of humility. This is not lowliness. True lowliness is to be able to marvel at the works and the person of God, and to rejoice in the fact that I am not God and that, in my sinfulness and folly, this God has chosen me as his son to share eternal life with him forever, if I so choose.
But the choice in the other direction is a very real choice, indeed. God does not send people to hell because he is mean or terrible; he sends people to hell because he is good, and respectful of the freedom he’s given to his people.
Nobody wakes up in hell and is surprised to be there, because they’re there by their own choice. The hand was offered to them, the message of salvation was entrusted to them, the waters of baptism had been poured over them, but they refused to become lowly. The chose hardness of heart, prejudice, and a life of always knowing better than God.
What is the great scandal of the Pharisee in the Gospel today? Sure, he’s conceited and a little puffed up. But the great scandal is that he wanted the perks of a life given to God, when in reality he lived without even a second-thought about God, the true and living God of Israel who’s faith, as a Pharisee and scholar of the law, he’d been entrusted with and had promised to uphold.
Everything in Christianity is about union with God. Our good works should spring out of that union with God. The charitable works of the Church should spring out of a life of prayer, sacrifice, and a search for and fidelity to the Truth of the Gospel. Atheists have soup kitchens, and people who hate Jesus give alms to the poor; what makes the Christian different? It’s that the Christian is not anchored to this world, has no footing in this world.
After a year and half of priesthood, I yearn more than ever to get out of here. Not Joliet, necessarily, since where can one go when he’s lived in the Crossroads of Midamerica, the City of Champions? No, I like it here in Joliet. But I want to be one with God more. I want to see the face of the one I love, I want to behold him as he is and not through this veil of tears. In a word, I want to go home.
Do you view God as home? Do you view your life here as a means of journeying home? Or has this world become your home? Do you yearn for something more, something different?
C.S. Lewis famously said that if we all acknowledge desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, then perhaps we’ve been created for a different world.
Today, Jesus, I ask you for the grace of lowliness. I ask you for the grace to hear and to receive and to spread the message of salvation which is being entrusted to us. Today, Jesus, I ask you to remove from my heart the things that keep me puffed up and conceited, the things that make me feel like I’m better than others or more worthy of your love. Jesus, king of love, I am confident in you.
Litany of Trust
From the belief that I have to earn Your love … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that I am unlovable … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the false security that I have what it takes … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute … Deliver me, Jesus.
From all suspicion of Your words and promises … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the rebellion against childlike dependency on You … Deliver me, Jesus.
From refusals and reluctances in accepting Your will … Deliver me, Jesus.
From anxiety about the future … Deliver me, Jesus.
From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past … Deliver me, Jesus.
From restless self-seeking in the present moment … Deliver me, Jesus.
From disbelief in Your love and presence … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being asked to give more than I have … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the belief that my life has no meaning or worth … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of what love demands … Deliver me, Jesus.
From discouragement … Deliver me, Jesus.
That You are continually holding me, sustaining me, loving me … Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are with me in my suffering … Jesus, I trust in you.
That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will not leave me orphan, that You are present in Your Church…Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your plan is better than anything else … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You always hear me, and in Your goodness always respond to me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked …Jesus, I trust in you.
That my life is a gift … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will teach me to trust You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are my Lord and my God … Jesus, I trust in you.
That I am Your beloved one … Jesus, I trust in you.
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