OT XXX [C] (Oct 27) Sunday Homily- One-page summary (L-19)
Introduction: The main theme of today’s Gospel is that true humility and repentance for our sins must be the hallmark of our prayers. However, the central focus of today’s parable is not on prayer itself, but rather on the evil of pride, the need for true humility and the role of God’s grace in our salvation.
Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading, from Sirach, is a perfect companion piece to the Gospel parable. In one striking image from Sirach, the writer declares “the prayer of the lowly, pierces the clouds to reach the unseen throne of God.” Such prayers are heard because they come from the hearts of people who know how much they need God. Although God has no favorites and answers the prayers of all, the oppressed, the orphans, the widows, and those who can least help themselves are His special concern. That is why the best prayer is humble and selfless service to such marginalized and abandoned people. In the second reading, the former Pharisee Paul, like the publican in the Gospel parable, humbly acknowledges, his work as accomplished by the grace of God, and he thanks God for enabling him to fight a good battle — to run a good race while keeping his Faith intact and proclaiming it. In today’s Gospel parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus reminds us that God hears the prayers those who approach Him in humility with a repentant heart. God did not hear the prayer of this Pharisee because he exalted himself. His prayer was a prayer of thanksgiving that he was not as evil as other people. He announced to God his freedom from sin and detailed his fidelity in observing the prescribed fast and in giving tithes. The tax collector’s prayer, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” was heard because he humbled himself, acknowledging his sins and requesting God’s mercy.
Life messages: 1) Let us evict the Pharisee and revive the publican in each of us. We become the proud Pharisee when we brag about our achievements giving no credit to God, when we seek praise and recognition from others for our accomplishments, and when we degrade others with insensitive comments, hurting their feelings. In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to imitate the humble publican (tax collector), by acknowledging our total dependence on God and His grace for all our achievements and blessings; by confessing to God daily our sinfulness and asking for His pardon and forgiveness; by praying for God’s continued daily support through His grace; by asking for His strengthening through the daily anointing and of His Holy Spirit living within us; and by becoming more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others, serving Jesus in them as best as we can. 2) Let us include all the necessary ingredients in our prayers. Our personal prayers must include our request for pardon and forgiveness for our sins, thanksgiving for the numerous blessings we receive daily from God, praise and worship, the unconditional surrender of our life and all our activities completely and unconditionally to God, the acknowledgement of our weakness and total dependence on Him, and finally, the presentation of our needs and petitions, accompanied by the fervent request for God’s strengthening in our weakness and temptations by the daily anointing of His Holy Spirit. Let us pray every day: “Be merciful to me, a sinner.”
OT XXX (Oct 27): Sir 35:12-14, 16-18; 2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18; Lk 18:9-14
Homily starter anecdote # 1: “Proud about what?” A news reporter once asked St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) if she had ever been tempted to be proud. Mother Theresa retorted with a smile, “Proud about what?” The reporter replied, “Why, about the wonderful things you have been doing for the poorest of the poor!” Then came her answer, “I never knew I had done anything, because it was God who worked in and through my Sisters and volunteers.” True humility differentiates a saint from a sinner. If we are proud of our talents, our family connections, our reputation, or our achievements in life, today’s Gospel tells us that we need Jesus to rid us of our pride and make us truly humble.
#2: “No, Madam, he did not.” 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 (world renowned Polish pianist and composer) 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.”
# 3: Truly humble of heart: Dorothy Day died in November 1980 at the age of 84. Reporting on her death, the New York Times called her the most influential person in the history of American Catholicism. In her book, From Union Square to Rome, she describes her conversion to Christ. One of her first attractions came in childhood. One day she discovered the mother of one of her girlfriends kneeling in prayer. The sight of this kneeling woman moved her deeply. She never forgot it. In the same book she tells how, in the days before her conversion, she often spent the entire night in a tavern. Then she would go to an early morning Mass at St. Joseph’s Church on Sixth Avenue. What attracted her to St. Joseph’s were the people kneeling in prayer. She writes: “I longed for their Faith… So, I used to go in and kneel in a back pew.” Eventually Dorothy Day received the gift of Faith and entered the Church. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies)
# 4: Proud boxer: Muhammad Ali had just won another boxing title. He used to boast: “When you are great and famous like me, it is hard to be humble.” Once, on the airplane, the stewardess politely said to him, ” Sir, you need to fasten your seat belt.” Ali replied, “Superman doesn’t need a seat belt.” To which the stewardess politely responded, “And Superman doesn’t need an airplane either; please fasten your seat belt, Sir.”
Introduction: The main theme of today’s Gospel is that true humility and repentance for our sins must be the hallmark of our prayers. However, the central focus of today’s parable is not on prayer itself, but rather on the evil of pride, the need for true humility and the role of God’s grace in our salvation. The first reading, taken from Sirach, is a perfect companion piece to the Gospel parable. In one striking image from Sirach, the writer declares, “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds to reach the unseen throne of God.” Such prayers are heard because they come from the hearts of people who know how much they need God. Although God has no favorites and answers the prayers of all, the oppressed, the orphans, the widows, and those who can least help themselves are His special concern. The best prayer is humble and selfless service. In the second reading, Paul celebrates the fact that he is near the finish line of his life, like a runner running a race, and that he has kept the Faith right up to this point. He humbly awaits “the crown of righteousness” that only God can give him. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the Faith!” In today’s Gospel parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus reminds us that God hears the prayers those who approach Him in humility. God did not hear the prayer of this Pharisee because he exalted himself. His prayer was a prayer of thanksgiving that he was not as evil as other people; he announced to God his freedom from sin and detailed his fidelity in observing the prescribed fasts and in giving tithes. This tax collector’s prayer, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” was heard because he humbled himself acknowledging his sins and requesting God’s mercy.
First reading, Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18 explained: Around 175 BC, many Jews, living in cities where pagans were in the majority, unknowingly assimilated their culture. Hence Sirach, a wise Jew, taught them how faithful Jews should live a good life, what moral and spiritual choices they should make, and what behavior would be honorable in religious people. Chapter 35 begins with a discussion of the kinds of sacrifice that would be truly acceptable to God. These include keeping the law, observing the commandments (verse 1), doing works of charity, giving alms (verse 2), refraining from evil and avoiding injustice (verse 3). In the passage chosen for the first reading, Sirach asserts that the just God has no favorites. Rather, He always hears and grants the humble prayers of the widows, the orphans, the lowly, the weak and the oppressed.
Second Reading, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 explained: These words are Apostle Paul’s last will and testament written to his spiritual son, St. Timothy. Paul sees his imminent martyrdom in terms of sacrificial worship. That’s what he means by the expression, “I am already being poured out like a libation.” The New Jerusalem Bible says, in a footnote to this verse, “Libations of wine, water or oil were poured over the victims not only in Gentile sacrifices but also in Jewish ones, see Exodus 29:40 and Numbers 28:7.” In the second paragraph, Paul thanks God for vindicating him in his first trial before the Roman magistrate, giving him a chance to bear witness to the Gospel before the pagans. But, though rescued once from the lion’s mouth, Paul is realistic in predicting that he is bound for the Lord’s Heavenly Kingdom, finishing his life’s race as a humble “Apostle to the Gentiles.” He writes, “I have finished the race; I have kept the Faith. From now on, the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for His appearance.” Although, like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable, Paul reports his accomplishments, like the publican, he humbly acknowledges the source of strength for the success of his apostolate: “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.” Paul´s humility is expressed in his confidence in God´s presence and His action in the face of Paul’s sufferings and imprisonment.
Gospel exegesis. The context: Luke’s Gospel shows special concern for the poor and the outsider. Luke may have included the parable we hear today, which concerns the acceptability of the prayers of the humble publican as opposed to those of the proud Pharisee, at least in part, to encourage the Gentile converts who did not practice the Jewish Law as the Pharisees did. In this parable, we see that God values the prayer of any humble and contrite heart. Luke puts greater emphasis on prayer than do the other Gospel writers, and he often mentions Jesus’ prayers (Luke 3:21; 6:12; 9:18; 9:28, 29; 11:1). The parables about prayer unique to Luke’s Gospel are: 1) The Friend at Midnight (11:5-8), 2) The Widow and the Unjust Judge (18:1-8), and 3) The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14). These parables teach us to pray persistently, and humbly. The central focus of today’s parable is not on prayer, but rather on the danger of pride, the necessity for humility, and the role of grace in our salvation.
Analysis: The parable has a two-fold meaning, giving us i) a warning against pride and contempt for others, and ii) an admonition to approach God with a humble and repentant heart. The parable was mainly intended to convict the Pharisees who, on the one hand, proudly claimed they obeyed all the rules and regulations of the Jewish Law, while on the other hand, they ignored the Mosaic precepts of mercy and compassion. The Pharisees were looked upon as devout, law-abiding citizens and models of righteousness. But they were proud and self-righteous. The tax collectors, on the other hand, were the most-hated group in Israel because they collected taxes for a foreign empire and became rich by cheating people, often threatening them with false accusations. In other words, they collaborated with the Romans and stole from the Jews. Hence, they were considered by their fellow-Jews to be traitors, unclean and sinful. The parable, however, shows that both men were sinners: the difference was that the publican realized that he was, but the Pharisee did not.
The assessment of their prayers: Devout Jews observed three prayer-times daily, at nine AM, twelve midday and three PM. They also considered prayer in the Temple as more efficacious than that made anywhere else. In the parable, Jesus tells us about two men who went to pray, a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee stood in the very front section of the Temple, distancing himself from his inferiors; his prayer was egotistical. He looked upon himself as superior to other people and listed all his pious acts. The Jewish Law required fasting only on the Day of Atonement, but this Pharisee fasted twice a week, possibly, on Monday and Friday, the market days, when the largest possible audience would see his whitened face and disheveled clothing — the external marks of his fasting. Although he was required to tithe only on his agricultural produce (Dt 14:22; Nm 18:21), this Pharisee paid tithes on all his wealth. He was sure that he had done all that the Law of God required –and even more, thus creating a “surplus” of righteousness and proudly making the Almighty his “debtor.”
The Pharisee’s prayer: In short, the proud and self-righteous Pharisee did not really go to pray to God, but only to tell God how good he was in the guise of thanking Him. He said this prayer “to himself”! His prayer was also ineffective because he was proud, despising all others, including the tax collector, labeling them sinners. He was really a good man, but he lacked compassion for others. If the first big mistake of the Pharisee was to think that God would be impressed by his boasting, the second was in his thinking that he was better than others. The Pharisee got what he asked for, which was nothing, while the sinner got what he asked for, which was everything. Two things especially make our prayers void and of no effect: a proud sense of our own righteousness, and a contempt for others. But a humble heart, contrary to both of these, can also become a trap if one stops looking at God an starts looking at his own humility expressed in extreme terms to attract attention! “Too humble is half-proud (Yiddish proverb). Too much humility is pride (German proverb).
The tax collector’s prayer: The second person in the parable was the tax collector. He stood at the back of the Temple and would not even lift his eyes to God. He confessed his sins and humbly asked for God’s mercy: “Kyrie, eleison”- “O God, be merciful to me–a sinner.” His prayer was short, but to the purpose. His heartbroken, humble prayer opened his heart entirely to God, which enabled him to receive the merciful acceptance God desires to give all of us. The publican’s only virtue was his active humility, which led him to repentance and prompted him to ask for mercy. While the Pharisee asked God, in effect, “Am I not better than my fellowmen?” the tax collector’s question to himself was, “Am I as good as God, when I am expected to be holy like my God?” Having defrauded his neighbors on behalf of the Roman overlords, the tax collector had much to be humble about. He was a sinner, personally and corporately, a state which prompted him to pray: “God be merciful to me — a sinner.” The Pharisee prayed as one who needed no forgiveness, and he got none; the tax collector prayed as one who needed forgiveness, and he received it. “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” (Soren Kierkegaard). “If no change occurs as a result of prayer, then one has not really prayed.” (Fr. Raymond Brown).
Forgiveness without formal confession?: We might object to God’s forgiving the tax collector as he did not formally confess any sins, make a statement of repentance, offer to change his life or make any reparations for his sins (as the tax collector, Zacchaeus, did). God’s approval of his prayer might appear to us to be a cheap form of grace. But let us remember that the humble prayer of the tax collector implied all the formalities of repentance, restitution and change of life, and framed them in his awareness of his total unworthiness compared to the holiness of God. And so, as Jesus tells his audience and us, as a result of, and a reward for, his humble prayer for mercy, the tax collector received mercy and went home truly “justified,” i.e., “reconciled to God.” St. Paul reminds us: “Not because of any righteous deeds we have done but because of His mercy, He has saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). The last words of the Gospel reading are a warning to us all: “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled; those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Life messages: 1) Let us evict the Pharisee and revive the publican in each of us. We become the proud Pharisee when we brag about our achievements giving no credit to God, when we seek praise and recognition from others for our accomplishments, and when we degrade others with insensitive comments, hurting their feelings. In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to imitate the humble publican (tax collector) by acknowledging our total dependence on God and His grace for all our achievements and blessings; by confessing to God daily our sinfulness and asking for His pardon and forgiveness; by praying for God’s continued daily support through His grace; by asking God for strengthening through the daily anointing of His Holy Spirit living within us; and by becoming more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others, serving Jesus in them as best as we can.
2) Let us include all the necessary ingredients in our prayers. Our personal prayers must include our request for pardon and forgiveness for our sins; our thanksgiving for the numerous blessings we receive daily from God; our praise and worship of God as we surrender to Him our lives and all our activities completely and unconditionally; our acknowledgement of our weakness and of our total dependence on God, and finally, in our presentation of our needs and petitions, accompanied by the fervent request for God’s strengthening of us in our weakness and temptations by the daily anointing of His Holy Spirit. Let us pray every day: “Be merciful to me, a sinner.”
3) Let us rid ourselves of self-justification: It is a tragedy that those who justify themselves leave no room to receive grace. Morally they may be living exemplary lives, yet their self-justification leaves no room for the grace of God to take hold. God cannot give grace to them because they are not ready to receive it; they are too full. If we are proud and complacent, there is not much room for God. On the other hand, if we are truly humble, we will find grace, mercy and peace. There must be a space in our lives for grace to enter and work its miracle. One lesson of the parable for us is that we must keep our focus entirely on God and our relationship with Him, recognizing that we are constantly in need of His mercy and forgiveness.
4) Let us ask for God’s unconditional love, forgiveness and mercy during the Holy Mass. When we participate in the Holy Mass, let us first admit our sinfulness before God by saying “I have greatly sinned … through my most grievous fault and let us beat our breasts with sincere repentance. Let us ask for God’s mercy as the publican did by saying, “Lord, have mercy! Christ have mercy! Lord, have mercy!” Later in the Mass, when we pray the “Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world,” let us passionately cry out, “have mercy on us, have mercy on us, and grant us peace!” Today’s Gospel is about God’s Divine Mercy. The tax collector saw this clearly: “Be merciful to me, a sinner.” We repeat this phrase at the Holy Mass and in the Divine Mercy Prayer: “Eternal Father, we offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” This is why we are gathered together every Sunday morning. We tell God that we offer Him His dearly beloved Son in atonement for our sins. Let us conclude with the Divine Mercy Prayer: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world.”
JOKE OF THE WEEK: 1) “Yes, I know, but Grandma is.” On the first evening of their visit with their grandmother, a young boy and his brother knelt by their bed to pray. Shouting as loudly as he could, the younger boy pleaded. . . “and PLEASE God, I need a new bicycle and a pair of roller blades.” “Shh!” said the older boy, “not so loud. God isn’t deaf, you know!” To which his younger brother replied. “Yes, I know, but Grandma is.” Technically, the boy was praying to God but, like the Pharisee in today’s Gospel, he was doing so simply to benefit himself.
2) Sunday Pharisees: “I never come to this Church for Sunday Mass,” boasted a wandering parishioner to his pastor. “Perhaps you have noticed that Father?” “Yes, I have noticed that,” said the pastor. “Well, the reason I don’t come is that there are so many hypocrites here.” “Oh, don’t let that keep you away,” replied the pastor with a smile. “There’s always room for one more.”
3) The Pharisee in the parish office: A farmer entered the local Church and spoke to the Church secretary: “I’d like to speak to the Head Hog at the Trough.” The secretary was quite taken aback and responded to the farmer, “Sir, we have no one here by that name.” “If you are referring to the priest in charge of this parish, we always respectfully call him Father or Pastor.” “Fine, ma’am, but I want to talk to the person who will take my $25,000 donation for your church.” Immediately the secretary responded, “Dearie! Please take a seat and just wait a second. Our Fat Pig will be here with you at once!”
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
- Audio-visual presentation of Bible themes and Bible books: https://thebibleproject.com/contact/
- Great weekday gospel reflections by Don Schwager: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/
- Bible.com: http://www.bible.com/
- Catholics on the net: http://www.catholic.net/
- Totally Catholic Link Directory: http://www.catholiclinks.com/classic/links.php
Video on domestic violence: https://youtu.be/o8jseOG7u_k
23- Additional anecdotes
1) Newsweek on prayer: Despite the fact that the secular media of television, magazines, and newspapers are not always very positive in their coverage and the images they use to portray the religious dimension of life in America, I was surprised to see that the January 6, 1992 issue of Newsweek featured a front cover, in gold, no less, with the headline, “Talking To God: An Intimate Look at the Way We Pray.” The article featured a Gallup poll which attempted to take the pulse of the prayer life of America. The poll shared these fascinating results: A. 78% of all Americans pray at least once a week. B. More than half–57%–pray at least once a day. C. About 20% of all atheists pray once a day. (Newsweek, January 6, 1992, page 40) Yes, the two men in today’s Gospel would both be included in Mr. Gallup’s poll, but the Pharisee and the publican are worlds apart in their “talking to God.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) We are all the same when we stand before God: Here is a funny story. A clergyman had reached the end of his rope, and he decided to try some other way of life that might give him a greater personal satisfaction. He was very disappointed to discover that a job was hard to come by. At last, he landed a job in the local zoo. Unfortunately, when he went there, the job was not exactly available just yet, but the manager asked him to consider taking a temporary job, until the other one was vacant. As it happened the chimpanzee had died and had not yet been replaced. The chimp was a great favorite with the children, and the cage could not be left empty for long. They had a chimp suit, and the man was asked if he would mind getting into the suit and taking the place of the chimp. All he’d have to do was to roll around a few times, eat a banana, go back in the back for a rest, etc. He decided to give it a go. He was an instant success. The children gathered around his cage. He soon discovered that he was now getting much more attention than he ever got in the pulpit. One day, he decided to really get into the act. He jumped up, grabbed an overhead bar, and began to swing to and fro, to the delighted screams of the children. He got carried away with himself, and he really began to swing with gusto. Unfortunately, after one huge effort, his hands (paws?) slipped, and he went flying over the partition into the cage next door. A huge tiger approached, and, forgetting that he was supposed to be a chimp, he screamed “Help! Help!” to which the tiger whispered sharply, “Shut up, you fool; I’m a minister too!” We are all the same when we stand before God….! (Jack McArdle in And That’s the Gospel Truth! d Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) “I feel so sorry, so sad, so unworthy, to receive the Communion.” Dennis Keen tells of a woman from a small town in Pennsylvania’s depressed coal region who would cry uncontrollably every time she took Communion. He asked other parishioners about this woman, and they said she had cried at Communion for as long as they could remember. After one service Pastor Keen asked her, “Why do you cry while kneeling at the altar every time you receive Holy Communion?” Her response surprised her pastor. “Every time I receive the Bread and Cup I can’t help but think that Christ died for me,” she said. “I feel that the only fitting response is crying. By crying I am remembering what Christ did for me. I feel so sorry, so sad, so unworthy, to receive the communion.” (Rev. Dennis Keen, “Representing Christ”). The tax collector in today’s parable felt the same emotion and feeling of unworthiness. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) “If you have to tell them who you are, then you aren’t.” The famous actor Gregory Peck was once standing in line with a friend, waiting for a table in a crowded Los Angeles restaurant. They had been waiting for some time, the diners seemed to be taking their time eating and new tables weren’t opening up very fast. They weren’t even that close to the front of the line. Peck’s friend became impatient, and he said to Gregory Peck, “Why don’t you tell the maitre d’ who you are?” Gregory Peck responded with great wisdom. “No,” he said, “if you have to tell them who you are, then you aren’t.” That’s a lesson that the Pharisee in our Gospel reading apparently had never learned. (Lee Compson, Holier Than Who?; quoted by Fr. Kayala). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6) “What a marvelous act of Faith.” Girolamo Savonarola was one of the great preachers of the fifteenth century. He preached in the great cathedral of Florence, Italy, which contained a magnificent marble statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When Savonarola started preaching at this great cathedral, he noticed one day an elderly woman praying before this statue of Mary. He then noticed that it was her habit to come every day and pray before the statue. Savonarola remarked one day to an elderly priest who had been serving in the cathedral for many years, “Look how devoted and earnest this woman is. Every day she comes and offers prayers to the blessed Mother of Jesus. What a marvelous act of Faith.” But the elderly priest replied, “Do not be deceived by what you see. Many years ago, when the sculptor needed a model to pose for this statue of the blessed Mother, he hired a beautiful young woman to sit for him. This devout worshiper you see here every day is that young woman. She is worshiping who she used to be.” (Rev. Jones). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) Are you still enough to listen? In his book Directions, author James Hamilton shares this insight about listening to God: “Before refrigerators, people used icehouses to preserve their food. Icehouses had thick walls, no windows, and a tightly fitted door. In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the icehouses, and covered with sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the summer. One man lost a valuable watch while working in an icehouse. He searched diligently for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn’t find it. His fellow workers also looked, but their efforts, too, proved futile. A small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the icehouse during the noon hour and soon emerged with the watch. Amazed, the men asked him how he found it. ‘I closed the door,’ the boy replied, ‘lay down in the sawdust, and kept very still. Soon I heard the watch ticking.'” [“To Illustrate,” Leadership, (Fall 1992), p. 46.] Often the question is not whether God is speaking, but whether we are being still enough, and quiet enough, to hear. Yes, Jesus assures us that our Heavenly Father always listens to us, but do we really listen to God? Do we follow the instructions of Psalm 46:11: “Be still, and know that I am God”? (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) God hears the humble: In her play, The Zeal of Thy House, Dorothy L. Sayers presents a stonemason working on an intricate carving for the chancel of Canterbury Cathedral. He clumsily lets his tool slip and spoils the whole great piece of stone assigned to him. It is a sad moment, as the valuable and custom-cut stone stands misshapen. The architect, however, takes the tool out of the artisan’s hand and although he remonstrates with him for his clumsiness, begins to enact forgiveness. He redesigns out of the spoiled carving a new and different figure which has its own part to play in the ensemble of the Cathedral, and then permits the blundering mason to complete it in all its glory. “So, works with us,” concludes Dorothy Sayers, “the genius craftsman, God.” The Good Book tells of Moses who lost his temper with Israel and failed God, David who submitted to uncontrolled lust, Peter who gave in to cowardice and denial, James and John who sought the chief seats in the new kingdom, Paul who had been a cruel inquisitor. Reading its pages, we realize that here is recorded not only good about men, but the worst, as well. Yet God, the ingenious craftsman, took each of these individuals in the moment of humility and surrender. With forgiving and patient love, He helped each to fashion a noble and useful life. This explains why the humble tax collector found favor with God. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9: “Don’t you know this is a fast-day?” Once there was a rabbi who was at the point of death. The Jewish community proclaimed a day of fasting in order to induce the Heavenly Judge to commute the sentence of death. When the entire congregation was gathered in the synagogue for penance and prayer, the village drunkard went to the village tavern for some schnapps (white brandy). Another Jew saw him and rebuked him saying, “Don’t you know this is a fast-day and everyone is in the synagogue praying for the healing of our rabbi? You shouldn’t be drinking.” The drunkard agreed, went to the synagogue and prayed, “Dear God! Please restore our rabbi to good health so that I can have my schnapps!”
The rabbi recovered, and his healing was seen to be granted because of the sincere prayer of the drunkard. Addressing his people on the following Sabbath, the rabbi prayed: “May God preserve our village drunkard until he is a hundred and twenty years! Know that his prayer was heard by God when yours were not because he put his whole heart and soul into his prayer!” [Nathan Ausubel, ed., A Treasury of Jewish Folklore, p. 161). Today’s Gospel tells us how God heard the prayers of a humble sinner and ignored the proud prayer of a self-righteous Pharisee. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10: No respecter of the privileged: Before the great spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi led India in its struggle for independence, he practiced law in South Africa. He became keenly aware of the injustice there, and he managed to persuade the Indian community to offer passive resistance to the government’s policy of discrimination. One incident which impressed itself on his mind was when he was obliged to step into the gutter so that a group of white passers-by would not be contaminated. Reflecting on the experience afterwards he wrote: “It has always been a mystery to me how men feel themselves honored by the humiliation of their fellow beings.” Gandhi made the remark not in anger but in surprise. When he returned to his native India, he abandoned the practice of the law to practice Satyagraha – the non-violent force is born of truth and love. Gandhi saw truth as having a power of its own and, although he was imprisoned four times for resisting British colonial rule, he never doubted the rightness of his cause. – In the language of the first reading, Gandhi believed in a God who was no respecter of the privileged to the detriment of the poor. His persistence in his cause for justice is a powerful illustration of the truth we heard proclaimed: “The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds, until it arrives, he is inconsolable, nor will he desist until the Most High takes notice of him.” (Denis McBride in Seasons of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11: Prayer is very powerful. A number of years ago, research at San Francisco General Hospital revealed that victims of heart attack, heart failure and other cardiac problems who were remembered in prayers fared better than those who were not. Cardiologist Randy Byrd assigned 192 patients to the “prayed-for” group and 201 patients to the “not-prayed-for” group. All patients were in the coronary intensive care unit. Patients, doctors and nurses did not know which group patients were in. Prayer group members were scattered around the nation and given only the first names, diagnoses and prognoses of patients. The researcher said that the results were dramatic. The prayed-for group had significantly fewer complications than the unremembered group. And fewer members of the former died. The latter group was five times more likely to develop infections requiring antibiotics, and three times more likely to develop a lung condition, leading to heart failure. (Fr. James Farfaglia). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) “A poor sinner, your brother.” In Vienna there is a Church in which the deceased members of the former ruling family in Austria, the Hapsburgs, were buried. When the royal funeral processions arrived at the Church, the mourners would knock at the door and ask to be allowed in. A priest inside would ask, “Who is it that desires admission here?” The mourners would call out, “His Apostolic Majesty, the Emperor.” The priest would then respond, “I don’t know him.” Then the mourners would knock a second time, and the priest would again ask who was there. The mourners would repeat, “The highest Emperor,” and would receive the same response from the priest. On the third knock and question from the priest, the mourners would reply, “A poor sinner, your brother” — and the funeral procession was allowed to enter. In today’s parable, Jesus reminds us that a humble acknowledgement of our sinfulness is the first condition for the efficacy of our prayers (William J. Bausch, A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) “You, too, had better be asleep:” A disciple came to Mohamed and said, “Master, my six brothers are all asleep, and I alone have remained awake to worship Allah.” Mohamed replied: “You, too, had better be asleep, if your worship of Allah consists of accusation against your brethren.” –Mohamed’s answer is self-explanatory. Worship is polluted if done with a heart harboring hatred, enmity or prejudice. The purpose of prayer is to purify oneself and not to find fault with others. – (G. Francis Xavier in The World’s Best Inspiring Stories). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
14) Prayer is a wish turned Heaven-word: A man going past his granddaughter’s bedroom, was pleased to see her on her knees saying her prayers. So he stopped to listen to what she was saying, and found that she was merely listing the letters of the alphabet -A, B, C, D,..X,Y, Z. he was astonished. He went in and asked her, “Honey, what on earth are you saying to God?” She replied, “Granddad, today I have so much to say to God that I don’t know how to say it. So, I decided to just say the alphabets and leave God to put the letters together, because he just knows what I am thinking.” What loveable simplicity! And what disarming humility! As a famous preacher, Phillip Brooks rightly said, “A prayer in its simplest definition, is merely a wish turned heaven-word – we do our best and God will unfailingly do the rest!” (James Valladares in Your Words O Lord are Spirit, and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) To the clown in all of us: A feature in The New York Times every Monday is “Metropolitan Diary.” In the “diary,” residents of New York neighborhoods share stories of the touching, the unusual, the amusing that typifies live in the Big Apple. In one diary entry (June 21, 2010), a correspondent reported observing this scene: While waiting for the neighborhood parking garage to open one evening, the writer saw a gang of five young men hanging out. On the trunk of their car were two large pizza boxes and five Snapple bottles. The guys were having a great time – but their horsing around was getting out of hand. The extra pizza slices were being thrown around and the empty Snapple bottles were smashed on the pavement. The observer wrote that he was getting angry at the mess and noise but did not want to take on five rather large young men alone, so he remained in his car. That’s when the clown appeared. A real clown — greasepaint, a big rubber nose, baggy clothes, big floppy shoes — the whole clown bit. He looked as if he had just stepped out of the Ringling Brothers circus tent. Apparently, he was on his way to entertain at a child’s birthday party. When the clown came upon the scene, he said nothing. He walked to the trunk, picked up one of the boxes and stooped down to pick up the broken glass and pizza globs on the street. The clown then walked to the corner and deposited the mess in a trash container. The young men were dumbfounded. When he had finished, the clown walked up to the five and passed his hat. The five sheepishly dug into their pockets and gave him their change. The clown bowed and went on his way. Today’s Gospel appeals to the “clown” within each one of us — that understanding that we are not the center of the world, that realization that we are part of a much larger “circus” than our own little “sideshow.” That is the Gospel value of humility: to realize that all the blessings we have received are the result of the depth of God’s love and not because of anything we have done to deserve it. Faced with this realization, all we can do is to try to return that love to those around us, to care for this world we all share, and to care for one another as brothers and sisters, children of the same loving God. Respect, compassion, forgiveness — the core values of the Gospel — are grounded in such humility before God and a spirit of gratitude for the life and world He has created for us. (Connections) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) My prayer answered: A good life, like a good prayer, comes from emptying ourselves of ourselves to let God in. That means a realization of the truth of the words scribbled long ago by an anonymous soldier of the Confederacy:
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve – I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for help that I might do greater things – I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy – I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life – I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I had hoped for.
Despite myself, my prayers were answered. I am, among all men, most richly blessed! (Harold Buetow in God Still Speaks! Listen; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) Names of people whom God loved. James Henry Leigh Hunt’s poem “Abu Ben Adhem” describes it in a moving manner. Abou Ben Adhem was a religious person. One night when he was sleeping peacefully in his room, a sparkling light woke him up. He found out that this bright light was due to the presence of an angel who was writing something in a golden book. He asked the angel what he was writing in the book. The angel replied that he was writing the names of all those people who love God. Abou asked the angel curiously if his name was in the list. The angel replied that his name was not there. He then politely requested the angel to write his name as the one who loved his fellow men. The angle wrote and disappeared. The other night, the Angel came again with a still glistening light and displayed the names of people whom God loved. Abou Ben Adhem saw that his name was on the top of the list. God always exalts those who humble themselves and exalt their fellow men. (Fr. Bobby Jose). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18“Quincy Adams will have to move out of it soon:” On his eightieth birthday, John Quincy Adams was walking slowly along a Boston street. A friend asked him “How is John Quincy Adams today?” The former president replied graciously, “Thank you, John Quincy Adams is well, sir, quite well, I thank you. But the house in which he lives at present is becoming dilapidated. It is tottering upon the foundations. Time and the seasons have nearly destroyed it. Its roof is pretty well worn out, its walls are shattered, and it trembles with every wind. The old tenement is becoming almost uninhabitable, and I think John Quincy Adams must move out of it soon; but he himself is quite well, sir, quite well.” That is the attitude we need to cultivate so that when the call home comes, we may say with Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the Faith.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
19) An Absolute Standard: One rabbi said, “If there are only two righteous men in the world, I and my son are these two; if there is only one, I am he!” -Reminds me of two friends talking, one said, “We’re the only two honest people left in the world, and sometimes I’m not so sure about you!” With a human measure, righteousness is relative; you can always find someone better and someone worse. Take the right point of comparison and you feel good about yourself. A little boy announced to his mother, “I’m like Goliath. I’m 9 feet tall.” “Why do you say that?” asked his mother. “Well, I made a little ruler and measured myself with it; I’m 9 feet tall!” Human standards don’t count. The only evaluation that counts is by an absolute standard — the righteousness of God Himself! With that measuring stick, we all come up short! In today’s Gospel the publican understood this, but not the Pharisee. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
20) Are You Listening? In his book Directions, author James Hamilton shares this insight about listening to God: “Before refrigerators, people used icehouses to preserve their food. Icehouses had thick walls, no windows, and a tightly fitted door. In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the icehouses, and covered with sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the summer. One man lost a valuable watch while working in an icehouse. He searched diligently for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn’t find it. His workers also looked, but their efforts, too, proved futile. A small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the icehouse during the noon hour and soon emerged with the watch. Amazed, the men asked him how he found it… “I closed the door,’ the boy replied, ‘lay down in the sawdust, and kept very still. Soon I heard the watch ticking.’ ” Often the question is not whether God is speaking, but whether we are being still enough, and quiet enough, to hear. Today’s Gospel tells us that we are able to listen to God when we are really humble and really repentant of our sins. (Phillip Gunter Los Alamos, New Mexico, Quoted by Fr. Kayala). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
21) “I’m guilty. I deserve to be here.” There’s a story I love to repeat about Frederick the Great, King of Prussia from 1740 to 1786, who visited a prison one day. Each of the prisoners he spoke with claimed to be innocent: the victim of misunderstanding, prejudice, or simple injustice. Finally, the king stopped at the cell of an inmate who remained silent. “I suppose you’re innocent too,” Frederick remarked. “No, sir,” the man replied. “I’m guilty. I deserve to be here.” Turning to the warden, the king said: “Warden, release this scoundrel at once before he corrupts all these fine, innocent people in here!” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
22) “God isn’t deaf, you know!” On the first evening of their visit with their grandmother, a young boy and his brother knelt by their bed to pray. Shouting as loudly as he could, the younger boy pleaded. . . “and PLEASE God, I need a new bicycle and a pair of roller blades.” “Shh!” said the older boy, “not so loud. God isn’t deaf, you know!” To which his younger brother replied. “Yes, I know, but Grandma is.” Technically, the boy was praying to God but, like the Pharisee in today’s gospel, he was doing so simply to benefit himself. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).(L/19)
23) The story entitled “The Brown Vest” in Guideposts Magazine (January 2004, cf. p. 70-73) presents a contrast of two characters: the retired engineer, John, who sat on the board of elders and the humble Harvey who served as pastor of the congregation. John worked hard. He served on committees. He gave generously, but he never let slip an opportunity to tell Pastor Harvey what he was doing wrong. “Your sermons aren’t spiritual enough.” was one recurring grievance against Pastor Harvey. Then there was the ever-touchy subject of church finances. John told Pastor Harvey at the board meeting: “We squander too much of our resources helping people who are better off learning to help themselves. We need to work more at spreading the gospel.” Pastor Harvey answered gently: “Of course, John. But I think we must also share with those who are less fortunate.” There was no doubt that the elder John was open and straight. One day the self-righteous John was diagnosed with cancer. Pastor Harvey visited him often in the hospital and at home where he returned for hospice care. One Friday afternoon before John was about to die, he motioned Pastor Harvey closer. He said, “You know, Pastor, for a guy who does so much wrong, you really aren’t a bad sort.” Today’s Gospel parable (Lk 18:9-14) also presents a contrast of two characters: the self-righteous Pharisee and the repentant tax collector. (Lectio Divina).
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 54) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
Visit my website: By clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ (or using Google Search) for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of Faith“ Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only firstname.lastname@example.org. Click on http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text. for a full version Or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony or under CBCI for my website version. (Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604).