Today’s Thoughts: In praying with the Gospel the last few days in preparation for today it was important to notice to whom Jesus’ parable was offered. Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, the usual suspects and all others who are convinced of their own righteousness and spend much time affirming themselves by judging and reducing others with false, but self-flattering comparisons.
The first person in the parable happens to be a Pharisee and he gets up close and personal with God and prays to “himself”! This is the very word Jesus uses to express how self-centered and self-righteous this person is as he pretends to pray. He spends quite a bit of time being grateful that he is not like the rest of humanity, greedy, dishonest and adulterous, and he is thankful that he is not like this tax collector standing in the back of the temple. He then recites and recalls how he does the rituals of fasting and tithing. He is the perfect person of faith or so he thinks.
As I have often referred to over the last several months as we have read Luke’s Gospel each Sunday, Luke often uses a little literary device, called the “Great Reversal.” Luke presents things upside down and the usual becomes unusual. Jesus’ ways are contrary to worlds ways. As the story continues, we have a tax collector who stands at a safe distance from God and reflects on his imperfection, his sinfulness. He prays, not to himself, but to God and with words reflecting his truth.
Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Peter, the first to be called, came close to Jesus and asked Jesus to depart, because he, Peter, was a sinful man. Jesus didn’t deny that truth but didn’t deny Peter either. Jesus’ call Peter to follow him in his sinfulness. In today’s parable, Jesus stays consistent. He sends the tax collector out of the temple justified in his humility while the Pharisee seems to stay there all wrapped up in his self-righteousness.
Jesus is catching the attention of both the self-righteous and the self-condemning. Jesus is blessing the truth, but obviously not the sin. He is challenging the former concepts of legalistically based holiness. Jesus is consoling those who know their truth of fallenness and faithfulness at the same time. It can be assumed that both men will be back in their same positions; one patting himself on the back, the other kicking himself a little bit lower. Being forgiven and sent forth does not mean perfection. It does seem that the Christ-right person will return begging for and again receiving healing and mission. It does take the grace of humility for us to be missioned by the sacrament of Reconciliation knowing full well that we will be coming back for more and new healing graces for our recovering from the old fractures. Jesus is never ashamed of us, bored with us, fed-up with us. Jesus doesn’t change in what we call time. God’s love is ever-lasting, always new and always transforming with the opportunity to transform our lives if we dare.
Have a blessed and joyful Sunday everyone.
Fr. Paul R. Fagan, C.P. "Preacher on the Run"
Just a few thoughts to help you on your journey through life...let me know from time to time what you think...