For this reason, I will try my best to post more regularly this year. One thing I can do is to include my random spiritual musings in the form of homilies, which I have to prepare for a weekly Homiletics class at the Scots College. Most of these will be short, weekday homilies. Occasionally, they will be longer, Sunday homilies.
The first homily I was charged with preaching was for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C). First, it seems appropriate to include the Gospel passage:
Gospel: Luke 18:9-14
Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, 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.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’
Whether you watch it or not, we all know that on the X-Factor, at least in theory, contestants are rewarded for performing well. They do the best they can so that the judges and the public will put them through to the next round. This is exactly what the Pharisee in today's Gospel does; he thinks that by listing his good works, he will be rewarded by God. The problem is, God isn't Simon Cowell.
Ironically, when most people read this passage from Luke's Gospel, myself included, we judge the Pharisee for being judgemental. We do not consider the good works that he has done, but instead we read about him in a self-righteous way because of how he relates to the tax collector.
The only way to avoid falling into this trap is to try to recognise ourselves in him. How often have we failed to humble ourselves? How often have we judged others? How often have we turned our backs on those in our communities? Suddenly, the Pharisee doesn't seem so bad; suddenly, he seems like a man who tried to do the right thing, but got lost somewhere along the way. He thought that his salvation depended only on his actions. He understands God as a judge - and rightly so - but he misunderstands divine mercy.
Let us also consider the tax collector. The way Jesus structures the parable makes us side with him almost immediately. However, surely Jesus would not hold up a man with no self-esteem as a model for us? We miss the point. The tax collector is a model of humility - real humility. That is, he sees himself as God sees him, in light of his role as a member of a community.
Consider, for a moment, the Second Reading (2 Timothy 4:6-18). Listen to what Paul says: "I have fought the good fight... I have run the race to the finish... I have kept the faith." Could these words not just as easily have come from the mouth of the Pharisee? In fact, they couldn't. The reason is simple. Paul goes on to say that he will attain the crown of righteousness from the Lord, along with all of those who have longed for His Appearing.
This is where the Pharisee gets it wrong, and where the tax collector gets it right. The Pharisee fails to recognise his place in the community, but the tax collector does not. However, it is important to remember that neither man is perfect. One carries out righteous acts, but in doing so, separates himself from others in the community; the other recognises his need for God's mercy, but only and precisely because he treats others in the community with contempt.
Christ teaches us today about real humility, which is seeing oneself with God's eyes, as a member of His Mystical Body. At the end of the passage, He tells His listeners that one man went home at rights with God, while the other did not. He also tells them that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and that those who humble themselves will be exalted.
We must not rejoice when the proud are humbled, because in doing so, we exalt ourselves.