Thirtieth Sunday Ordinary Time Year C
Readings: Sir 35:12-14, 16-19; 2 Tim 4:6-8, 16-18; Lk 18: 9-14
Humility, total dependence and our need for God’s mercy are the words that help to focus on the central message of this Sunday. As we begin preparation for our annual stewardship commitment renewal today, the Sunday readings set the tone for every disciple and steward of Jesus Christ. We are invited to have an attitude of humility and our need for God’s mercy. The responsorial psalm highlights that point. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; those who are crushed in spirit he saves”. I once heard the story of a priest who shortly before Mass, noticed that the front pews were empty (very Catholic) and so the priest urged those at the back to come forward. All moved forward except one woman who remained alone at the back throughout the Mass. After Mass, as the priest was greeting parishioners on their way out, that woman told the priest: “Father, I just recently returned to the church after 40 years away. Today I’ve made the big step to walk through the door. So you’ve got to let me ease my way up into the middle of the congregation. I have a lot of things that the Lord and I need to talk about first.”
That story leads us to the Gospel in which Jesus confronts us with the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The parable is like a mirror that enables us to see clearly the truth about our double life of self-righteousness and sinfulness. The central message of the parable is that God listens and favors those who humble themselves, and rejects the hypocrite; those who refuse to face the truth about their sinfulness and their need for God’s mercy. In the parable, Jesus urges us to imitate the attitude of the tax collector, who in humility accepts his sinfulness, and asks for God’s forgiveness. The tax collector is repentant. That’s why he was at the back of the temple. He had made the big step to enter the temple door. He didn’t feel that it was right for him to come any closer because of his unworthiness. He and God had things to work out. He needed God’s mercy; God’s forgiveness. For that reason the tax collector is favored by God, and goes away more justified; more transformed than the Pharisee. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) As we begin our preparation for this year’s stewardship commitment renewal, the readings draw our attention to the need for humility before God for all we are and all we have is from God. 2) Jesus in the parable invites us to open our hearts in all humility to sharing God’s gifts of time, talent and treasure for God’s work. 3) Only in our total dependence on God will God’s grace transform us like the tax collector who goes home transformed by God’s grace. The bottom line question is: am I going to return home today transformed by God’s grace or am I going back just as I came - simply unchanged? The choice is mine. The choice is yours.
©2016 John S. Mbinda