A HOMILY FOR THE THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDIN ARY TIME — CYCLE “C” – 10/23/16 – SMG
+ Pax et Bonum! Peace and goodness to you this day!
I suppose, that whether we like to admit or not, we have all judged other people, by the way that they look or appear. You know, today they call that profiling. And it existed long before a group of radical Muslims crashed four airplanes on Sept. 11th, 2001. In fact, Muslims are only the latest victims of us judging by appearances. We’ve done this since the beginning of mankind. I bet even the cavemen judged each other! “Look at poor Og, He still doesn’t cook his pterodactyl. He’ll probably get worms!” And Og probably looked right back at Sihon, and said, “You uppity little jerk! You think you’re better than me just because you cook your pterodactyl! You’ll probably get cancer!” We’ve done it for ages! We judge people by their race, by their age, by their religion, and by where they live. We judge people by how long their hair is, or if they don’t have hair, or by what kind of car they drive, or who their favorite football team is! And none of these things really tell us about what’s inside a person! That’s the truth. That’s what this Gospel is trying to remind us all of today at Mass!
This parable that Jesus tells today should have been a piece of cake to understand. There’s a Pharisee and there’s a tax collector. A Pharisee was a religious leader. He prayed. He knew the Scriptures. He wore all the right robes. He had a noble profession. He taught people God’s law. This is the good guy. He probably wasn’t perfect, but next to this tax collector, the Pharisee is going to look pretty good! And remember, the tax collectors were the most hated and despised criminals in first century Palestinian culture. So this tax collector walks into the Temple and everybody would have wondered what he was doing there. He would have stuck out like a sore thumb! And because these guys were so notorious, everybody knew who the tax collectors were. He didn’t have to have a t-shirt on, that says “I am a tax collector!” He didn’t have to have rings on his fingers, or gold chains around his neck. Everybody knew who this was, and what he did for a living. He was despised! There were probably many in the Temple area who thought that he shouldn’t even have been there. But he was there! And he was praying. And his prayer, perhaps the most honest thing that we can know about him, was a humble prayer asking for forgiveness.
You cannot judge by the outside. We cannot judge by appearances. And the truth is, that judging anybody about anything, is best left up to God, not us. We don’t know the whole story! The Pharisee and the tax collector both stand before God, each expressing their own truth. On one level, the Pharisee is correct in his self-analysis; by all standards he is a good and faithful Jew. Yet, his relationship with God is off. Even his prayer sounds more like a monologue than a heartfelt plea. The center of his life is his ego and not his God! And as he makes this comparison of himself to the tax collector, he seems to be doing so to bolster his own superiority. His judgmental attitude is somewhat frightening, and makes us wonder what other darkness is there in his soul. And who else is he judging?
The tax collector, on the other hand, is a sinner in the eyes of everyone and in his own estimation. This man knows he’s a sinner! He would have lived on the fringes of Jewish society, and many would have seen him as a thief, a traitor, and collaborator. It must have taken amazing courage to even come to the Temple that day. Groucho Marx once said, “I would never join a club that would have me as a member!” Certainly the tax collector would have felt the same way! His acknowledgement of his sinfulness stands in marked contrast to the self-centered superiority of the Pharisee.
Today we would do well to know and acknowledge our own sins and weaknesses, certainly before we even attempt to start judging our brothers and sisters. We don’t know what’s going on, on the inside. All we see is the outside, and the outside means nothing. Halloween is coming up next week. We know that we can dress up as just about anything we want. Thanks to some very clever costumes, we might look like a doctor, we might look like Darth Vader, we might look like a clown (Well, maybe not this year!) or we might look like a Saint! But a costume doesn’t make us a doctor, or Darth Vader, or a clown, or a saint. It’s what’s on the inside. It’s what’s in our hearts.
We must all face the truth of our human weakness, and in that honesty make room for God and His mercy in our own lives. Let us stop judging others. This is the real truth. And it is the truth that will set us free!
May God bless us today, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN !!!
St. Maria Goretti… Pray for us !!!