Wednesday, October 23, 2013

30th Sunday in OT (C) - Saint, Sinner — or Both?

Luke 18:9-14
October 20, 2013

GOSPEL READING: The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

REFLECTION: Saint, Sinner — or Both?

A Pharisee and a Publican in the temple ... Lifting up their eyes and minds to God. To recognize His infinite goodness and their quasi-infinite misery? ... not quite so simple as that . . .

Each one speaks up as he sees himself. The Pharisee, standing tall in the center of the temple, proclaims loud and clear, and for all to hear, that he is a perfect man, faithfully keeping all the commandments of the Law — thus, somehow favorably comparing himself with God — And then even going to the extent of looking down upon a Publican whom he describes as dirty, refusing even to look at him for fear of contamination . . . And, yes, far down the temple, in a corner and hidden from sight by a thick column, the Publican who, hardly dare to look up and constantly beating his chest, makes public confession of his manifold guilt and asks to be absolved from it.

And, before both them, high on His heavenly throne, the All-Holy God Who had told them to “be Holy as I am Holy” (Lev 11:45). The All-Holy God, Who in this case, is presented as a Judge; and Who, as such, is expected to pass sentence.

He does pass sentence; indeed He does! And what sentence does He pass? — “I tell you the Publican went home justified while the Pharisee continued to carry his burden of guilt wherever he went.” Reason? “Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, while he who humbles himself, shall be exalted” (Lk 18:14).

* * * * *

Another scene — The “Pharisee” and the “Publican” in Me — standing before the Cross!

The Pharisee (pride) in me makes me at times, if not all the time, think derogatorily of others — of how they speak, how they move about, how they pray! ... And thus, turning myself into a judge, I pass sentence on them...

All this with a clear attitude of superiority and a similarly clear challenge to them to be as I am and to do as I do . . . This “at times.” Perhaps “many times”; perhaps, “all the time ...” — And, if not always voiced out clearly and loudly for others to hear, at least spoken silently in the depths of my heart. And, what is much, much worse, in the presence of the God Who sees, hears and knows all about my pride, my impatience, my judgmental attitude, my comparisons...

Shouldn't I rather kneel in a corner, like the Publican; and in all humility, that is, in all truthfulness, lay my soul bare before the Lord on the Cross, the Lord Who shed up to the last drop of His blood for me; beat my breast and, from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my will, plead: “Lord, have mercy, for I am a sinner!” ... And then, thinking of possible “Pharisees” in the temple, add: “Lord, have mercy on them, too; for, no matter what they think or say, they are my brothers; and your Blood was shed for them as well as for me. Forgive us all, Lord, for we are all sinners, and as such are all in need of Your infinite mercy.”

Grant that each one of us may go “home” — to the altar of the Eucharist — as “new creations,” ready to walk along the way of the “new life” that your Body and Blood bring to us. Amen.


FR. GUILLERMO TEJON, OP is Dominican Priest and former Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Holy Rosary.


Ordinary Time, Cycle C, OP Friars, Prayer, Righteousness, Sin, Impatience, Prejudice, Pride

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