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Homily for Thirtieth Sunday C

21 Oct 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

The Pharisee and the tax collectorA week ago, in our gospel passage, Jesus told a parable about the need to pray always. He talked about a particular judge who neither feared God nor has respect for man; Jesus called him an unjust judge. This morning in our first reading, the Lord is referred to as a judge who is no respecter of personages, a judge who has no respect for ranks and offices. Wow! you may exclaim, this sounds so, unlike Christ. No wonder some of the ancient Israelites thought the Lord’s ways were unjust; he was seen as an unjust judge. But the Lord says, Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? (Ezekiel 18:25).

The same question the Lord puts before you and Me this morning; are my ways unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? Are you not the ones who constantly breaks the covenant we made in love?

God no doubt is a covenant-keeping God; he is faithful even though we are not. He respects no personages to the poor’s detriment; He answers who so ever calls Him in faith and humility. That is what our first reading reminds us this morning, that the humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds to reach the presence of God.

A humble faith opens the gate, Jesus is the gate of heaven, and in him, we see the fullness of humility. He humbled himself even unto death and called every one of us to live out our Christian faith in humility.

In the Lord’s parable, He says, two men went up to pray in the Temple, a Pharisee, and a tax collector. The Pharisees prayed thus;  I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithe on all I get. On the other hand, the tax collector stood far away from the sanctuary, not considering himself good enough to come close to it nor even look up to heaven. He beat his breast, a sign of acceptance of fault as we do during the penitential rite at Mass. We beat our breast saying; through my fault, through my fault. The tax collector accepted and claimed responsibility for all his failings. He pleaded for mercy, saying;  God, be merciful to me, a sinner. In the end, he went home at right with God while the Pharisee did not.

This reminds me of what happened at the thanksgiving Mass of one of the newly consecrated bishops in Nigeria; it was at his village. When the village head was called upon to address the gathered community, he did something very touching. He expressed the fact that he is a king and the traditional ruler of that village, but he also acknowledged that he is standing before the King of kings, and as he says that, he took off his crown and knelt before the sanctuary. Yes, only God judges the secrets of man’s heart, but from what we can see as human beings, that traditional ruler humbled himself and his throne before God almighty. That is what is expected from every one of us to surrender in faith and humility to the power and authority of God. To acknowledge God as the all-holy and Omnipotent God. The tax collector did that and went home at right with God, but the Pharisee did not because he prided himself over and above others. He forgot that Jesus did not say, be perfect as your neighbors are perfect, but be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5:48).

The Pharisee compared himself with his neighbors while the tax collector compared himself with his heavenly Father. When you compare yourself with the heavenly Father, then you discover that you are nothing but dust, a man full of sins and defects. The light of God’s glory exposes our dirtiness, our nothingness, and the need to humble ourselves and plead for mercy as the tax collector did. We do not live our lives according to human standards but of the divine. Humility is not a call to think less of ourselves or the place we have in God through Jesus Christ but to think ourselves less. Spiritual pride or arrogance makes us feel it’s all by our power, no. Spiritual arrogance or pride leaves us empty and unsatisfied; it makes one live in falsehood.

Let us, therefore, approach God today in faith and humility, acknowledging our failings and the so many times we have prided ourselves as righteous. Let’s beat our breast and say, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.