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"This is Something Unique in the Bible"-Pharisee and Publican Sunday

A Homily given on 2 Tim 3.10.15 and Lk 18. 10-14 (The Pharisee and the Publican)



 


Glory to Jesus Christ.

At the end of today’s epistle, we hear St Paul proclaim: “In the Holy

Scriptures you can learn wisdom which leads you

to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”. Do we take seriously

enough Holy Scriptures? Jesus gives us today a parable concerning the

attitude to have as we go up to the temple… here at Mount Tabor, each

Sunday. The 1st character, the Pharisee, goes up to the temple with

self-confidence. Confidence in one self is basic to maturing and

growing. If I did not repeatedly regain self-confidence during many a

difficult time, I would have remained in depression, lethargy and

fruitlessness. Here though, Jesus describes a danger: self-confidence

coupled with negligence of others. Positive self-confidence has no

disrespect of others. Positive self-confidence does not associate with

pride that I am not like the many who do not go to mass on Sundays. We

are to give thanks in all things. Our thanksgiving can boast as St

Paul does today giving himself in example to Timothy: “Imitate my

progress in persecutions and in sufferings, my faith, my endurance, my

love, my perseverance, my effort to live in devotion to Christ”. In

the gospel, Jesus puts humility above thanksgiving, we are to consider

others superior to ourselves. Today’s 2nd character, the

tax-collector, comes up to the temple to pray, conscious that, by

trade, he practices extortion of others, conscious that there is

fundamental evil in his practices, he sees himself inferior to others.

When we enter this temple, do we remember that we are sinners, that

there is evil in some of our practices… that we are unworthy, unworthy

of approaching God’s holiness, unworthy of lifting up our eyes to

heaven, that we are in need to beat our breast repeating “it’s my

fault, it’s my fault”, to repeat ceaselessly the Jesus Prayer, the

universal prayer for oriental Catholics which originated from today’s

gospel. The usual words of the Jesus Prayer are: “Lord, Jesus Christ,

Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”? There is no other way to

purification and sanctification, except through the Jesus Prayer. Just

before today’s gospel, Jesus cries out: “Will I find faith on earth?

Will I find faith in you as you come up to this Eucharist (the word

Eucharist means thanksgiving)? Will you come up to this Eucharist with

profound humility? Jesus Himself declares today: to come up to the

temple with profound humility brings salvation. Are you ready to

substitute to all things, profound humility?


Today’s gospel ends with the saying: “whoever exalts himself will be

humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Jesus

already said this a couple chapters earlier in conclusion of the

parable on taking the last place at banquets. The Virgin Mary

introduces this saying at the end of her canticle of thanksgiving. It

has always struck me that the Mother of God includes among her

motives of joy: “He puts down the mighty from their thrones” even as

she associates to it: “He exalts the lowly”. The evangelist Matthew

has Jesus pronounce this same saying in still two other different

contexts and the evangelist John has a version just before his Jesus’

Passion: “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life

in this world preserves it for eternal life.” (Jn 12.25) I count six

different gospel contexts with the same essential saying. A saying

found already in the Canticle of Hanna after she gave miraculous birth

to the prophet Samuel (1 Sam 2.7) and also in one of the concluding

psalms of the Psalter (Ps 147.6), also in the book of Job (Job 5.11)

and in the prophet Ezekiel (Ez 21.31). I know of no other saying of

Jesus so diversely represented. This is something unique in the Bible.

Does this not indicate that you as Christians have a special duty to

let this saying incarnate in yourselves? Are we not called to apply

with joy to our lives: “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and

the one who humbles himself will be exalted”? “In the Holy Scriptures

you can learn wisdom which leads you to salvation through faith in

Christ Jesus” says St Paul.

Glory to Jesus Christ.


(Given on 1.29.2023)

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