Homily for the thirtieth Sunday of the year - Year C - Lk. 18:9-14
Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
" Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: «Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.» "
" Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others. "
As he did last Sunday, the Lord speaks to us today about 'righteousness'! He tells us a parable that addresses itself to those who take pride in being righteous! There are indeed some people who believe themselves to be righteous, but without this really being the case... They are 'righteous' because they believe themselves to be righteous, but actually they are not. They believe in themselves and not in God! That is where the problem lies! Those who believe in God are righteous: "He who through faith is righteous shall live." (Habakuk 2:4) But those who believe in themselves are not justified, for they will always find, within themselves, a certain limit - that which belongs to them as creatures - that will prevent them from being righteous.
Man is limited: he is a creature! He therefore cannot find his justification in himself, but rather must seek it in someone other than himself. Man, as creature, depends on God, his Creator. Man is a created being: he does not depend on himself, but rather on another. God is perfect in himself and does not depend on a being other than himself. Therefore, it is in God that man can find his justification. Now, properly speaking, it is faith that allows us to find God and to unite ourselves with him through charity. So, it is truly through faith in God that man is justified. If a man or woman believes that he or she is justified, it must therefore be the case that this man or this woman believes that God justifies his or her entire person in Christ.
" «Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus by himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!'» "
The Pharisee in question does not believe that God justifies him: on the contrary, he believes in himself, which is a grave and culpable fault, a sin of pride without equal! The Pharisee believes in the righteousness of his works, instead of believing in the righteousness of the grace of God! He performed many good works: this is, in itself, a very proper means of justification. But, instead of considering these works to be a means, the Pharisee takes them to be an end in themselves. Consequently, God cannot justify him, since he mistakes creatures for the Creator! One may be very active in performing good works, but if the intention behind all this action is not pure, then we must fear the worst... God blesses our acts only if our intentions are pure!
The tax collector doesn't offer anything to God. He has nothing, he did nothing, or almost nothing... He offers to God only his poverty, or in other words, what he is: a sinner! That is all. His prayer is finished. But his prayer is a true prayer. On the other hand, the prayer of the Pharisee consisted of a thorough eulogy of self-praise. The poor tax collector prayed well: he presented himself before God as an unworthy servant. "We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty." (Lk. 17:10) The tax collector considers himself to be someone who must rely on God for everything, and this is why the Lord justifies him!
" «I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.» "
He who humbled himself was justified; he who exalted himself was condemned! What a mystery! How appearances deceive us! We must do all we can for our salvation, in order to merit Heaven and avoid hell. But after having done all that we must do - that is, after having carried out the will of God on earth - we must present ourselves before God as unworthy servants... Let us not forget: it is not the abundance or the greatness of the works we will have accomplished that will be of value in gaining us our eternal salvation. Rather, it will be the intention with which we will have performed these same works that will be the sole testimony in our favor on Judgment Day!
During this Sunday's celebration, we are going to present to God all of our works from this past week. Let us therefore do everything with a pure intention, one that pleases God! Let us ask the Most Holy Virgin Mary to purify our heart and to present it to her Son in the Eucharist!