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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Homily. Readings: Ecclesiasticus 35:15-17, 20-22; Psalm 34; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14.

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Green Stole and Gospel
Redings: Ecclesiasticus 35:15-17, 20-22; Psalm 34; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14

THEME OF THE READINGS
The Readings from the Book of Ecclesiasticus and the Gospel of Luke show us that God sees the heart and is not fooled by exterior appearances. The person who humbles himself, recognizing his own frailty and poverty while reaching out to God, will be heard in his needs. In his Second Letter to Timothy, we see Paul´s humility expressed in his confidence in God´s presence and action in the face of sufferings and imprisonment. He was strong to the end because he recognized his littleness, turning toward the Lord who, "stood by me and gave me strength."

DOCTRINAL MESSAGE

Humility moves God, while pride is repugnant to him. The author of the Book of Ecclesiasticus refutes the notion that the rich are favored by God while the poor are despised by him. This exterior way of judging is tainted by our human way of seeing things. God goes to the heart of the matter, to the human heart where a person keeps his treasure. There God sees if he is a person´s treasure or if the person is self-centered or creature-centered. The humble person recognizes his radical dependence on God; he therefore pierces heaven with his prayers and keeps on until God responds, since without God he knows how helpless he is. God is our Father and, seeing that childlike dependence, he is quick to respond.

The Gospel once again shows Jesus who sizes up his audience and presents a parable to them. In this case, he addresses himself to some independent, self-righteous individuals, who esteemed themselves to be just and others to be despicable. Jesus makes the lesson taught in Ecclesiasticus into a drama that places two men before God in prayer. The Pharisee prays a false prayer of thanksgiving to God. He really just gloats of his own personal achievements by which he believes to be just. He has no need of God to respond to his prayer, since he has no needs outside of what he can provide himself. His "thanksgiving" goes so far as to express gratitude for not being a worthless lout like the miserable tax collector behind him in the Temple. There is no love of God or of neighbor in his prayer. The tax collector´s prayer, on the other hand, is one of supplication and the sincerity its expression pierces heaven. He recognizes his indignity and misery before God. He compares himself to no one, sure that he is the person most in need of God´s grace. He goes away justified, which is to say that God forgives his sins and renews him. The Pharisee saw no need to ask for justification, since he had perfected himself.

In the Second Reading St. Paul appears to be very sure of himself. He believes that he will receive "a crown of righteousness." However, his attitude is radically different from that of the Pharisee in the Gospel parable. Paul knows his nothingness. All the good that he has been able to do, to "fight the good fight" and to "run the race to the finish," has been made possible by God´s help and has been done before God, without looking to be exalted before men. Although he seems sure of being rewarded, he recognizes the reward as coming from God, not himself. His affirmation at the end of the reading summarizes this attitude: "The Lord will rescue me from all evil… and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever."

PASTORAL APPLICATIONS
Many people do not pray because they do not know how to. One of the principle obstacles is a lack of a filial attitude towards God, recognizing oneself as a son or a daughter of God. This attitude results from a basic attitude of humility by which we accept the truth that we are creatures. A creature has been placed in existence by Another, God. He has received all that he has and is. By recognizing our fragility, our sinfulness, we discover the second essential way of expressing humility.

With these two expressions of humility – the truths that we are creatures and sinners – in place, we are ready to address God in prayer. We are ready to need him, to thank him, to adore him, to ask him forgiveness. Thus, we discover the classical four subjects of prayer: petition (asking God for what we need), thanksgiving (being grateful for what we have received), adoration (recognizing who God is and giving him the homage of our whole heart) and penance (asking forgiveness for our sins).

 

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