XXX SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; 2 timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; luke 18:9-14
a man boasted to a spiritual master that he had achieved a high degree of holiness: «i rise early in the morning; i fast from food and drink; i work tirelessly and i even discipline myself with a whip.» the spiritual master walked with him through a field and pointed to a mule. he said: «that mule rose early in the morning. it hasn’t been fed or given a drink. it has worked tirelessly, and has been whipped.» he asked the supposedly holy man: «what makes you any different from that ass?»
we could pride ourselves on our efforts and assume that we make ourselves «good christians» primarily through them: good deeds, sacrifices and penance, and prayer and the sacraments.
today’s gospel tells us that there’s more to being a good christian or a spiritual person!
the pharisee in the parable did all the good practices he listed. and these practices have their merit. then where’s the problem?
the problem is his «holier-than-thou» attitude: «i thank you father that i am not like other people!» the problem is his «prayer» is actually an advertisement for himself, where the subject is himself and not GOD. the problem is that he thought he did not need GOD’s grace/mercy and love, and his actions would justify him!
the tax collector knew that he was a poor sinner and that he needed GOD’s grace/mercy and love to help him.
jesus speaks «this parable to those who were fully convinced of their righteousness»! holiness or righteousness is not about what we do and achieve. it is about recognizing our need for GOD. it is what happens when we bring our emptiness before GOD and let him pour his love into us. it’s only then we—like the tax collector—are justified, that is, set right with GOD.
do we tell GOD what we have done for him? do we compare ourselves with others? or do i stand humbly before GOD, with full awareness of my nothingness, and acknowledge his goodness, love and mercy to me?