27 October 201930 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
30 Ordinary Time
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 18:9-14

A priest gave a homily on this celebrated tale, says Arthur Tonne. At the end of the Liturgy, a man passing him said breezily "Boy, Father, I sure hope they get your point." Do you get the feeling he himself missed the message Jesus was giving? And, more importantly, do we? Do we believe church is a place where we go to find out how our neighbor might lead a better life. Have we become legends in our own minds?

First the good news. The pharisee of the Gospel wasn't really a bad guy. He had a lot going for himself.

The record shows he was honest and did not cheat on his neighbor. How are we in these departments? He fasted two times a week. Do we fast? He gave 10% of his income to God. The charts show that we in terms of income are more stingy than our parents. He prayed four times each day. When some of us come to Sunday church, we applaud ourselves. We feel that we are doing God a favor. A few of us even slip out before the Liturgy is ended. If in doing so we give bad example to young people, that is their problem and not ours. If the pharisee believed in the Eucharist as we say we do, we would not be able to dynamite him out of a parish church. Would that we had the chutzpah to imitate the pharisee in what Joseph Donders call the Big Three: prayer, fasting, and good works. The world about us would be a more delightful place to live in!

And let's check out the bad news on this famous Gospel character. He was a proud prig. He was swept off his feet big time by his importance. William James reminds us: "A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices." His prayer consisted of trumpets to his humble self. The object of worship was himself. He was telling God there were only two perfect people - himself and God. And he was entertaining very serious doubts about God.

We should reflect that the word humility was born from the Latin word humus or earth. Thus humility demands that we stay close to the earth and, more specifically, reality.

But many of us are pretty proud about our own correctness. If we ran our prayer through a computer, we would discover that oftentimes we pray not to God but to statues curiously resembling ourselves.

This then is a parable that the Christ spoke years ago in Palestine not for the Bobs and Marys around me. Rather He was addressing my own sometimes less than honorable self. Was it Socrates or his first cousin once removed who said that each of us would do well to know ourselves? Were we to genuinely know our own selves we would be humble folk. And likely to remain so, for we would realize that we have much to be humble about. No one has yet improved upon the famous line that pride goeth before the fall.

William Barclay tells the story of the woman tourist in Germany. The guide took a group through Beethoven's house. He showed them the piano on which the genius had composed his Moonlight Sonata. A woman in the group immediately sat down and played some bars from the sonata. The guide told the group that Paderewski had recently been shown the piano. The woman gushed, "And I wager he sat down and played just as I did." Archly the guide said, "No, Madam, he said he was not worthy to touch those keys."

I have met few genuinely great people. One was Henry Mann, the president of an international company. He would not speak of himself. He wanted to know of my work. I was very proud to tell him at boring length. When I left him, I regretfully realized I had been the pharisee of this parable. He had been the protagonist. He said nothing about himself and allowed me to rant and rave proudly about myself. In so acting, he taught me much about myself.

Mr Mann had made his own the line of Francis of Assisi. "The beginning of wisdom," said he, "is to know who God is and who you are." This parable would have all of us copy Henry Mann's style.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
30 Ordinary Time
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Walking into Church

For many of us, it is difficult to walk into a Church, even our own parish Church. We enter, and we look at the tabernacle. Perhaps the thought comes into our minds: God is looking at me. How does he see me this week. Was I better? Was I worse? Some of us may have been away from Church for a few weeks, or months, or years. Maybe we need to talk to Him about our absence. For some of us that might mean our absence from practicing the faith on Sundays, and receiving communion. For others, perhaps for most of us, that might mean our absence from practicing the faith in our daily lives. Sometimes it is scary to look at the tabernacle. Sometimes we want to join the Tax Collector and sit in the back and say, "Lord, have mercy on me a sinner."

When I came here as pastor nearly 28 years ago, I was surprised to see that at some of the Masses sections of the Church were roped off so the congregation would be forced into the front and middle sections of the Church. I put an end to that immediately. There were several reasons why I was and am still against this. First of all, I do not want people to be confronted with do's and don't's as soon as they walk into Church. Second, there are some people who need to be in the back for health reasons. There are some people who cannot handle crowds and need to sit away from others. Some doctors and emergency workers may be on call and need to sit close to a door to step out and answer their cell phones if they start to vibrate. But my main reason for getting rid of the ropes was something a man once said to me after I tried to convince people to sit closer to the altar. He said, "Father, I just recently returned to Church. I've made the big step to walk through the door, but you've got to let me ease my way up into being in the middle of the congregation. There are a whole lot of things that the Lord and I need to deal with first."

For some of us it is difficult to walk into the Church. We are concerned: Are other people looking at me? Maybe there are people here who have seen me at my worse. Maybe some have heard stories that I cannot deny. There are some people here who are so serious about the faith, far more than I have been. Do I belong here with them? Am I treading on their turf? The priest often talks about each of us being a different member of the Body of Christ, but, honestly, sometimes I think I might be a toenail.

For some of us it can be difficult to walk into a Church because we may fear that we are joining those who are "holier than thou." Thoughts fly through our heads that so many others are ignoring God this Sunday, but we are here. We think, "How many members of my extended family will not worship this weekend? How many kids in my school, or people at work, will not worship this weekend? When I get up early to go to Mass, I drive by house after house full of people that wouldn't think of disturbing their Sunday sleep-in with community worship." And the thought flashes quickly into our minds: That must make me better than them. Then we realize that we are judging others, and acting like that Pharisee who went to the Temple to remind God of how much better he was than others.

For some of us it was difficult to walk into Church today. But we need to be here. The relationship with God that each of us has been gifted with flows through the Church, the Saved Community. It is through the Saved Community that we offer Christ on the Cross to our Heavenly Father. It is through the Saved Community that we receive Jesus' Body and Blood. We need to nurture our role in this Community.

At the same time, our relationship with God is unique. We are individuals. In the eyes of God no one is fundamentally better or worse than another person. He created us to be ourselves, our best selves. That's how He sees us. Our God really is a Good, Good Father. Good parents do not view their children as better or worse than each other. They see them as different from each other. "This child struggles in math but is a great reader. His brother is the exact opposite." Good parents see both children as unique and care for them for whom each is, not in comparison to their brother or sister. We are God's children. God sees us as individuals. He loves each of us as unique individuals. Yes, He sees our sinfulness, but He forgives each of us for the times we have not returned his love. None of us are fundamentally better than any other person. We all live under the Mercy of God.

Catholicism is often accused of putting people on guilt trips. This is not true. Catholicism puts people on reality trips. Catholicism dares to speak about unpopular topics like sin. Catholicism dares to invite people to consider their own participation in sin and seek forgiveness. It asserts that our salvation is a process we are engaged in. We are being saved. Catholicism recognizes that as human beings we are continually tempted to sin. Sometimes we give in to temptation. Our Church reminds us that the Lord was one of us. He experienced temptation, and, though He did not give in to temptation, He understands our need for mercy. He gives us the Sacrament of Mercy, Penance, because He wants His Mercy not our guilt to direct our lives.

Catholicism is not concerned with guilt. It is concerned with mercy. People are continually telling their priests how much they need the Mercy of God. They are realists. We all need the mercy of God. As we come to a deeper understanding of all that God has done for us, we also come to a deeper understanding of how much we need His mercy and forgiveness. Sometimes we read about great saints like St. Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and we are shocked that they and all the saints saw themselves as great sinners. The saints had a profound realization of the extent of God's love for them and the many times they have not returned His love. We are all called to be saints. We are called to holiness. If we strive to respond to the call to holiness, to sanctity, then we also must realize how much we need God's mercy.

Today the parable of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee leads us to the Pilgrim's Prayer. The pilgrim's prayer is both simple and profound. It is the prayer of the man in the back of the Temple who realized that he is totally dependent on God's love, a love that he had often rejected. The pilgrim's prayer is the prayer that we all need to say with our hearts throughout our day. The Pilgrim's Prayer is: Lord Jesus , have mercy on me a sinner.

A pharisee and a tax collector go into the Temple. Only one prays. Only one is a humble enough to recognize his need for the Healing Hand of God. And that one leaves in the embrace of the Lord's love.

For some of us, it is difficult to walk into a Church. But God is here. We need Him. We need His Mercy. We need the strength of His sacraments. We need to walk into the Church because we need the strength and the courage He provides. We need His grace so we can walk out of the Church with Him.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
30 Ordinary Time

Bottom line: God does not want scrupulosity. He wants humble acceptance of his mercy. God wants us to come to the truth.

A few weeks ago we asked Jesus, "Increase our faith". The gift of faith enables us to enter a relationship with God. Faith makes prayer possible. Prayer in turn increases faith.

Prayer begins with gratitude. Like the ten lepers Jesus cures, you and I have received unexpected blessings. We typically take them for granted, but when we return to give thanks, Jesus says, "Your faith has saved you". Gratitude increases faith.

For prayer it's enough to rest with gratitude. But, still, we have needs and those we love are suffering. Like the aggrieved widow last Sunday we place those needs before God with persistence. We thank, then ask.

Today we see a third step of prayer - repent. You and I have received so much yet we turn from God. We set up some false god thinking it will bring peace: a shopping trip to the mall or on Amazon, the lure of drugs and porn, explosions of anger or simply clamming up. To repent, to turn back to God, we can use the tax collector's prayer: "O, God, be merciful to me, a sinner."

Bishop Robert Barron does that when he makes a morning Holy Hour. Going before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, he prays the breviary and the rosary. Then he often spends time saying the Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Some Eastern monks say this prayer continuously to the rhythm of their breathing. "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God/ have mercy on me, a sinner."

If a person asks mercy of God, he no longer needs fear any human being. God, after all, knows us through and through, all our failings, miseries and offenses.

The tax collector who begged mercy went home justified. He had humbled himself and now he can stand before God - and before any man.

The pharisee, on the other hand, considers himself a good person - a very good person! He justifies himself. Consequently God cannot justify him. God is Truth. He cannot take part in a lie.

The tax collector sees the truth. We follow his example. We begin Mass by saying "I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do..." Does this seem exaggerated? Well, God does not want scrupulosity. He wants humble acceptance of his mercy. God wants us to come to the truth.

In your prayer begin by humbly thanking God and asking for what you need. Then repent and praise God. Remember the acronym: TARP - thank, ask, repent, praise. All this requires humility. As Jesus says, "whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
30 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
30 Ordinary Time
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
10/21/2019 0 Comments

Jesus pulls no punches in today's Gospel text about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Typically, he chooses as his characters first one who is ostensibly the most upright and religious and then the other who is despised by everyone. And, as ever in his parables, Jesus turns the accepted order upside down.

We listen to the Pharisee's wordy prayer: 'I' thank you, God, that 'I' am not grasping, unjust and adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that 'I' am not like this Tax Collector here. 'I' fast twice a week; 'I' pay tithes on all 'I' get. His prayer has more 'I's' than a potato!

It is obvious that the Pharisee's prayer is turned in on himself. He might as well be thanking himself instead of God because really he is not praying to him at all; in fact, he is trying to show off in front of God. He is not praising God he is praising himself. He is parading all his so-called good deeds before God. But he knows God so little that he has not realised what it really is that God is looking for or wants from him. At root all the Pharisee is doing is comparing himself to his fellow man.

The Tax Collector on the other hand knows how unworthy he is and implores God for mercy. What he is doing is not comparing himself to other men but comparing himself to God and finding himself wanting. He knows his sins, they are always before him, but because the habit of sin has become deeply ingrained it is very difficult for him to change his ways.

And this is precisely what true humility consists in; not comparing ourselves to others but comparing ourselves to God, or perhaps more easily to Jesus his incarnate Son. When we do this we begin to see ourselves in the correct light; we begin to see ourselves in true perspective. We realise that before God we are absolutely nothing. In comparison to Jesus we are utterly hopeless but in his mercy God saves us and raises us up. He forgives the contrite heart; he bathes us repentant sinners with salvation.

I was reading about the famous High Court Judge and Lord Chancellor Lord Hailsham who died in 2001. He was a strong Anglican all his life. I think it was coming to terms with the death of his mother while he was a student at Oxford that made him into a convinced Christian. Until he died at the age of 94 he went down on his knees to pray every night. He said once, 'I say the Lord's Prayer and I pray for help, comfort and strength.'

He enjoyed recollecting the occasion when saw his brother on the other side of the central lobby of the House of Commons and shouted out his name to attract his attention. As he called out 'Neil' he was most amused to see several American tourists fall to their knees.

When asked in an interview how such an august legal personage as himself would meet his maker for the Final Judgement he said that he would immediately admit his guilt and throw himself on the mercy of the court. I don't want to praise up Lord Hailsham too much, but in that phrase he summed up precisely the attitude of the tax collector from today's parable.

But this is a very tricky parable because the minute you say, 'Thank God that I'm not like this Pharisee' ... woops... you have become just like him! So, if comparing ourselves to others is useless then what is useful when it comes to prayer? I think that what is the most useful is what I have said so many times from this lectern: attitude.

What we need to work on is not lengthy words; or promises to God telling him how we intend to change; or doing good deeds over and over again in an attempt to earn his favour. What we need to work on is our attitude. And we can see from our reading of this Gospel that the Pharisee and the Tax Collector had totally different attitudes to God. And Jesus is quite clear which of them God prefers.

When I was a Prison Chaplain, I once met a girl there who told me that she didn't come to mass because all Church-goers were hypocrites. I got down on one knee and said how delighted I was to meet the only person I had ever come across who wasn't a hypocrite. It caused much hilarity among the other prisoners who were standing around I can tell you. It was immediately clear that this girl's attitude was one of constantly judging other people. But she can't have been much of a saint herself otherwise she wouldn't have ended up in prison. Fortunately, she had a sense of humour and had a good laugh at herself.

The question then is this: what is our fundamental attitude. This is what Jesus is always trying to uncover and bring into the light. Periodically, we need to look at ourselves in the cold light of day, we need to see ourselves not so much as others see us but as we really are. Traditionally we call this an examination of conscience and it is something that should feature very regularly in the life of every Catholic. Our ancestors knew of the importance of a proper examination of conscience and many of them made one every night before they went to bed. But then perhaps they were on the path to saintliness when many of us are not truly committed to achieving sanctity.

Yes, we all want to be in the back row with that Tax Collector—certainly most Catholics seem to want to seeing how full the back rows in Churches always are! But, of course, it doesn't matter where you sit in the Church, it's where you are in life and where you are in God's plan for the world that really matters.

Our job as a Christian is to strive always for perfection, but never to think ourselves perfect.
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