October 27, 2019


+  Pax et Bonum!    Peace and goodness to you this day!

My maternal grandfather was one of my favorite people.  He was a great man.  He saw a lot in his life.  He also had a lot of the most unique sayings, that had a way with sticking with you, long after he said them.  And one of my favorite sayings, of my Grandfather, was “You can even make a pig look good, if you use enough lip stick.’’   Now, as a small child, I had no idea what that meant.   I assumed that it was some old Italian saying, that he brought with him from the Old Country.  I knew that they raised pigs on their farm in Italy.  I didn’t know that they dressed them up and put make-up on them.  As I got a little older, the people that I knew who wore the most lipstick were my Italian great aunts, his sisters.  I knew this because every time one of them kissed my brothers and I, we got lipstick all over the place.  Certainly, he wouldn’t have been calling his sisters “pigs”.  After all, my great aunts were beautiful Italian women.  So what did he mean by putting lipstick on a pig?  I still didn’t understand.   Then, when I was in college, I bought a 1973 Chevrolet pickup truck for $300.00.  That truck was a mess.  Rust everywhere.  Lots of miles on the odometer.  Bad tires.  But I went to work on bringing that truck back to life.  I completely re-did the body.  I bought new wheels and tires.  I got new bumpers and a new grill.  After dumping every penny I made in the summer of 1981 into that truck, it finally looked beautiful.  Fire engine red, chrome trim, blacked out windows.  At the end of the summer, I loaded up my beautiful truck to head back to college.  I got exactly twenty miles from home.  When the timing belt on the engine broke, and I had to have the shiniest, best looking red pickup truck towed back to my Father’s construction garage.  And when I got there, there was my Grandfather, shaking his head, and saying, as he looked at my truck, that pig has a lot of lipstick on it.  That’s what he meant.  You can make absolutely anything look good.  Even a pig!  Even a rusty old pickup truck.  Even a sinner.

I think of my Grandfather’s saying today as we read this Gospel reading from St. Luke, about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  You see, the Pharisee looks good in that Temple.  He looks like he belongs.  He’s got the right robes on.  He’s saying the right prayers.  His beard is trimmed perfectly.  And he’s saying this prayer that sounds a whole lot more like a self-congratulatory speech!  The Pharisee is putting on a great show.  He’s all shiny on the outside, but he is no better than the tax collector on the inside.  The Pharisee is a sinner.  And he’s actually worse, because he doesn’t think that he is a sinner.   At least, in his prayer, the tax collector is honest about who he is, with himself, and with God.  He knows what he has done and what his sins are, and begs God for His mercy.  The tax collector comes to the Temple that day in all humility.  He knows he needs God.  The Pharisee comes to the Temple that day, pumped up by pride and his own self-worth.  He doesn’t need God.  He has made himself into his own little God!  The Pharisee comes to the Temple seeing praise and recognition.  The tax collector comes to give praise to God.  The tax collector comes to ask God for mercy because he knows how much he needs it.    The Pharisee shows no mercy, because to him, it is not something that he understands.  Mercy is just an excuse for the weak and those who fall down, for those who sin.



And the Pharisee wants to pretend that he doesn’t know anything about being weak, or falling down, or sinning.  The Pharisee’s lack of honesty and his extreme pride betrays an interior mess that not even the tax collector has.  The Pharisee is that beautiful pig, all made up to look good, that my Grandfather used to talk about.

We are called to be honest and humble about our Faith and our relationship with God.  Anybody can put on a good show.   Anybody can get dressed up and look good – What a perfect reading for the week of Halloween, huh?   We can all learn from the tax collector.  In prayer, we stand bare before God, seeing in ourselves what God sees in us, and worry a lot less about what others may think of us.  We’ve got to quit worrying about what others think of us.  It doesn’t matter what other think.  It only matter what God thinks of us!  And I fear that Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter have all made us terrified of what others think of us.  Social media is turning all of us into Pharisees, and we get so concerned about looking good, that we all become that pig with lots of lipstick.  Our entire lives become one, big show!  And that includes our religion and faith!

You know, the Saints, whom we are going to celebrate this coming Friday, were all once sinners.  And we are all sinners, who are called to be saints.  The Pharisee admitted of no sin and that deprived him of sainthood. The tax collector, on the other hand, admitted his sins, his guilt, and his unworthiness, and in doing so, he became more worthy of the love and mercy of God.  The tax collector’s humility saved him.  The same can happen for all of us.  We can be saints!  But we’ve got to turn to Jesus in humility, admitting our faults, and getting rid of our pride.

+  May Jesus help us to become saints,  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…     AMEN !!!

St. Maria Goretti…  Pray for us !!!