Reflection: Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m.

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering

Bible study/sharing every Saturday (2:00-4:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church, 5 Leicester Place WC2H 7BX (near See Woo Chinese Supermarket, Leicester Square tube station)

Talk and discussion meeting First Tuesday of every month (4:00-6:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church

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[1st Reading – Ecc.35:15-17,20-22; Ps.33; 2nd Reading – 2Tm.4:6-8,16-18; Gospel – Lk.18:9-14]

“… BE MERCIFUL TO ME…”

This week, the gospel writer is telling us the reason behind Jesus’ parable “to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else”.

The story talks about two men who felt the need to go to the Temple to pray. These men are clearly identified in the parable: one is a Pharisee and the other is a Tax Collector. The Pharisee is a scholar in Jewish Law and is both familiar and intimate to the Temple; the Tax Collector, on the other hand, is a “hated traitor” of the Jews because he collects money from the Jews for the Romans. Through this story therefore, Jesus is already putting us in an acceptance/non-acceptance relationship with these two men. If we take the view from the Jewish perspective, we are likely to be sympathetic towards the Pharisee and be uncompassionate towards the Tax Collector. But Jesus’ story is urging us to be very careful about jumping towards this rash conclusion.

Although these two men both went to the Temple to pray, they relate to God in a very different way. The Pharisee thanks God … but his thanksgiving incorporates what appears to be more of a judgement against others than thanksgiving. The Pharisee seems to be more interested in highlighting what ‘others’ (i.e. the rest of mankind) are like (i.e. grasping, unjust, adulterous … or even being a tax collector), in relationship with him! He is interested in what he is “not like”! Once he has satisfied himself in telling God what he is not like, he then goes on to tell God what he does (i.e. he fasts and he pays tithes). In all this outward show of the Pharisee, God is quite forgotten and the attention is all about his “false” self. In contrast with the Pharisee, the Tax Collector does not have a lot of words to say except to ask God to have mercy on him, a sinner. In other words, this Tax Collector recognises God, he recognises God’s mercy and he recognises his own limitations in his relationship with God. He puts God as his centre of attention. These two men went to the Temple to pray and although both men said the truth (in their own way) while they were praying, only one of them “went home at rights with God” while the other did not. The reason is because, according to Jesus, “the man who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted”.

Quite often in our own life we find ourselves in the same situation. Sometimes we go to pray but instead of talking in an intimate way with God, instead of talking to God about us and our relationship with him, we find ourselves talking about others and their relationship with us.  Instead of recognising the greatness of God and His power, we find ourselves looking at what we consider to be ‘our good things’ and ‘our merits’ in comparison with others. So, instead of putting God as the centre of our attention, instead of recognising our own true limits (through which we discover the greatness of God, without whose help we are “nothing”) we put ourselves in the centre of our own universe.

“Lord, give us the wisdom and strength to learn to humble ourselves in such a way that your greatness can be seen in our life. Thank you Lord!”

 

 

Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo http://www.stpatrickwaterloo.org.uk/ )

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