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Homily for 30th Sunday October 23-24, 2010

posted Oct 25, 2010, 10:45 AM by fathermark@stmaryshuntingburg.org

30th Sunday of the Year

St. Mary's, Huntingburg

October 23-24, 2010

 

 

                The "Publican and the Pharisee" ... or the "tax collector and the Pharisee" ...

This is a very well-known Gospel story ...

These two very different men come into the Temple to pray ...

... one is full of pride ... and the other is full of repentance ...

One leaves "made right with God" ... and the other one doesn't ...

 

                The unlikely hero of this story is, of course, the tax collector ...

He's "unlikely" precisely because he's a tax collector ...

Now, when we hear "tax collector," we have to put out of our heads images of clean-shaven IRS agents in suits and ties ...

This guy is a crook ...

When we think of "tax collector" in the Gospel, we should think instead of mafia goons ... greasy, corrupt officials of some backward country ... extortionists ...

This tax collector is a traitor who collects taxes for his nation's oppressors ... and makes his own money by overcharging his fellow citizens and keeping the profit for himself ...

But, as unlikely as he might be, this tax collector is the hero of this story ...

Because he knows that he's a sinner ...

... and he acknowledges his sin  ...

... and he asks for mercy for his sin ...

The tax collector might be an unlikely hero ... but he is the hero of this story ...

 

                And then, we have the unlikely villain in this story ... the Pharisee ...

Now, we're used to hearing the Gospels refer to the Pharisees as "enemies" of Jesus  ...

... and many of them apparently were ...

But, in general, the Pharisees were a group of Jews who were deeply committed to their faith ... holding on to their precious faith ... and keeping it pure.

And the Pharisee in today's Gospel  was no different:

He fasted twice a week—which meant that on Mondays and Thursdays, he ate nothing, not even taking a sip of water ...

He donated to the Temple treasury ...

... and he came regularly to the Temple to pray ...

All of which makes him an unlikely villain ...

But, as we discover, he also reeks of pride and harsh judgment and disdain for others ...

And so, this in-many-ways-upright Pharisee turns out to be  the villain here ...

 

                In the end, the real difference between these two men comes down to what we could call "humility."

Humility ... not in the sense of being timid or shy or cowardly ...

But ... "humility" in the sense of seeing rightly ... having a clear vision of ourselves ... and especially seeing ourselves rightly before God ...

 

                In that sense, the repentant tax collector was a very humble  man... he saw with perfect clarity the fact that he was a sinner ... he couldn't deny it ... he didn't want to deny it ... he wanted to confess it and be forgiven for it.

That repentant sinner ... that humble tax collector ...  saw that he was desperately in need of God's mercy ...

 

                Meanwhile, the Pharisee, on the other hand, was anything but humble ... far from clear-seeing ...

He swaggers into the Temple ... the Gospel says that "he took up his position"... like "taking up a pose" ...

Now, that Pharisee could accurately see that he did lots of good in his life ... and there's nothing really un-humble seeing that ...

But that fact blinded the Pharisee to his deeper faults ... faults that are as obvious to us as the nose on our faces ...

In fact, we all know that this man was proud, smug, self-contented, and judgmental of others ...

But those were faults in himself that Pharisee couldn't see ...

The Pharisee was proud ... he wasn't humble ... he didn't see himself rightly in relation to others ... and he didn't see himself rightly before God ...

He didn't see his own faults ...

But more, the Pharisee didn't see that any good that he did was the result of God's grace at work in him ...

Because, in fact, while it might feel like we're working awful hard to be good sometimes ...  if we are, it's because God made us want to do good and guided us to the good and empowered us to the good.

But the Pharisee didn't have the clear vision of humility to see the truth of it ...

 

                Well, how's our vision ....?

How well do we see?

How accurately do you and I see ourselves ... in relation to others ... and in relation to God?

In short, do we really ... really ... do we really know that we are sinners in need of God's mercy?

Now, there may be some here today who don't think they're sinners ...

Maybe there are quite a few who wonder if they are sinners ...

Perhaps a few don't ever bother to even to think about sin and their relationship with God.

Well, then, they—and we—need a jolt of humility ... we all need a flash of clarity of vision ...

 

                The problem for many of us is that we're looking at the people around us ... at least unconsciously ... and saying to ourselves "Well, I'm not as bad that one" ... "Well, I am way better than that one over there" ...

We're blinded to reality by using the wrong lenses to look at ourselves ...

We can't see ourselves as we really are because we're using the wrong measuring stick ...

We're at the fair, thinking we're great because we're playin' the kiddie games ...

 

                 If we really want to see ourselves accurately ... if we want to get a sense of where we are ...

Then we need to look at the Lord Jesus ...

If we want to see ourselves rightly, we need to look at Jesus ... on the Cross ...

There, on the Cross, Jesus loved people who didn't deserve his love or return his love or express thanks for his love ...

There, on the Cross, innocent but suffering, Jesus forgave the very people who were hurting him ... those who betrayed him ... those who abandoned him ...

There, on the Cross, when all seemed lost and gloom and defeat ... Jesus trusted ... and he surrendered        ... and he accepted God's will for him ...

Now, how do you and I measure up against that measuring stick?

How do we look to ourselves when we put on those lenses?

How do you and I look when we compare ourselves ... not to the sinner next to us ... but to Jesus ... most especially to Jesus on the Cross?

 

                Sin isn't just killing people and stealing from people and committing adultery ...

If that was all there is to it ... we could swagger into church too like that Pharisee and "take up our positions ..."

But sin is also not accepting the love that God offers us  ... by not worshipping him and thanking him and trying to know him and embrace him and draw close to him.

Sin is not loving the sinners around us ...  as God has mercifully loved us:  so generously ... so undeservedly ... so unfailingly  ...

Sin is not at least trying ... or sometimes struggling ... to trust ...  to surrender ... to accept, in faith, that God's will ... as dark and as mysterious as it might seem  at times ... trusting that God's will for us is always and everywhere and in every situation a loving will.

 

                You know, maybe we aren't guilty of the obvious sins of that tax collector ...

Maybe we aren't as judgmental as that Pharisee ...

But if we don't have the humility to see ourselves as we truly are before God ... to see ourselves as sinners ... and to ask for mercy ... and to commit ourselves to change ... then, like that Pharisee, we won't leave this Temple, "justified" ... "made right" with God.

In that case, we can just swagger out ... just like we swaggered in ...  

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