A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The truth, the whole truth...

Today’s Gospel (Luke 18:9-14) is the familiar parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.

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 whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

But in today’s second reading (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18) St. Paul seems to be quite eloquent in exalting himself.

I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day...

As for us, although we know that the repentant tax collector was justified and the boastful Pharisee was not, those of us who have been taking our faith seriously might find much in common with the Pharisee: he gives thanks to God, he avoids some common sins (although he still wallows in pride and other sins), he fasts twice a week, and he gives away 10 percent of his income for religious and charitable causes.

Indeed, in many ways, the Pharisee is better than many of us are!

So is it better for us to be sinners who feel bad about sinning or good people who feel good about being good?

Today’s first reading (Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18) gives us a good reminder:

The LORD is a God of justice,
who knows no favorites.
Though not unduly partial toward the weak,
yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.

God is all-just and all-knowing. We should therefore come before him with complete and total honesty: neither with false modesty nor with misplaced pride, but rather thankful for the good we have done, repentant for the evil we do and for the good we should have done, and most of all intensely aware of our absolutely dependence on the Lord’s grace.

But the Lord stood by me
and gave me strength,
so that through me

the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion's mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever.