FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18 | Psalm 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23 | 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 | Luke 18:9-14
Last Sunday, you may remember, Jesus taught the disciples about praying with constancy, with perseverance. Today, Jesus teaches us what perhaps is the most foundational part of praying — praying with humility.
In 1991, a Philippine Airways 737 flew into a cloud of volcanic ash near Botolan, Zambales. One by one, all of its engines failed. After falling more than 25,000 feet and preparing to ditch in the Pacific Ocean, the pilot made an announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All our engines have stopped. We are doing our best to get them going again. To those travelling in business class, please keep your oxygen masks firmly attached and keep your seat belts fastened for your safety. To those on economy flight, please join me in saying, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you..."
In our First Reading, Sirach demonstrates that God hears the prayers of the poor and watches over them. Some in Israel relied on their elevated status and wealth to feel righteous and secure before God. Sirach shows such reliance as very misguided. God hears the prayer of the lowly, those who place Him first in life.
A little piece of bamboo once complained bitterly because its owner kept whittling away at it, cutting and filling it with holes, but the one who was cutting it so remorselessly paid no attention to it complaining. He was making a flute out of that piece of cane reed, and he was too wise to resist from doing so, even though the bamboo complained bitterly. He seemed to say, “Little piece of bamboo, without these holes, and all this cutting, you would be a black useless cane reed forever. What I am doing now may make you think that I am destroying you, but, instead, I will change you into a flute, and your sweet music will charm the souls of men and comfort many a sorrowing heart. My cutting you is the making of you for only thus can you be a blessing in the world.”
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul, deserted by friends at his trial in Rome, proclaims that the God who accompanied him during his trial will be the same God who will crown him with glory at his passing from this world. He testifies how God gave him strength during his imprisonment. In his suffering and loneliness, he humbly prays and surrenders all his troubles to God.
Years ago, C.S. Lewis declared, "As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: And, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something above you.”
In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus is warning us about the sin of pride in the parable of the proud Pharisee who prayed from his self-importance and the tax collector who prayed humbly.Through this story, Jesus makes it abundantly clear how we’re to come before God. When you are ill and go to the doctor it would not make much sense to tell the doctor about another person’s illness. The doctor would not be able to treat you if you complained about someone else’s illness and did not tell your own symptoms. If you were to do that you would go home again just as sick as when you went to see the doctor. The right way to approach God in prayer is that of a lowly, self-effacing person and a repentant sinner. Like the tax collector, we bring to God our nothingness, our sinfulness, our poverty. Let us admit our filth before Him. Humble repentance before God opens us to God’s grace. When you are ill and go to the doctor it would not make much sense to tell the doctor about another person’s illness. The doctor would not be able to treat you if complained about someone else’s illness and did not tell your own symptoms. Let's confess our need of God's mercy, "Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" <enrique,ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum