Saturday, March 21, 2009
Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced
of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.
"Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity greedy,
dishonest, adulterous or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.'
But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even
raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed,
'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.'
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Rev. Thomas P. Looney, C.S.C. '82
Vice President for Mission
Jesus' sharpest challenges and most fervent calls to conversion are reserved, not for sinners of what might be described as sin's normal course, but for sinners in the "religious" realm.
Jesus consistently challenges the hardness of heart of those, who in pursuit of right relationship with God leave their sisters and brothers in the lurch.
Human persons left in the lurch by a lack of true compassion for those who struggle with human weakness or whose life circumstances are beyond unaided human capacity to bear.
Human persons left in the lurch by the self-absorption of those who believe that their goodness or holiness is of their own making, and not, as goodness and holiness truly are, gifts of grace that carry one to heights unattainable on one's own.
As sinners, who seek deeper intimacy with the Lord in this holy season of Lent, it is important to be reminded that the challenge of this gospel narrative is meant, not so much for the sinner in the normal course-though we find ourselves there as well, but for us. As we long for holiness and to live in right relationship with God, let us ask the Lord for the gift of humility that will enable us to recognize that we too, are sinners in the normal course, and that progress on the path to holiness is first and foremost the Lord's gift. May we never look upon another with contempt, but only with the compassion of a shared humanity!