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30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – Homily

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year 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
October 23, 2016

Today Jesus tells us about two people praying, a Pharisee and a tax collector.  One becomes justified but not both.

As we know, the Pharisee was one of the religious leaders of the time.  As such, he knew what the Law said.  He knew what he was supposed to do.

He is the first to pray.  He begins properly with, “O God, I thank you,” but it might not seem much like prayer or thanksgiving to us.  It seems like boasting.  He’s thankful that he isn’t like the other people who are greedy, dishonest, or adulterous.  He fasts twice a week and pays tithes.

Everything he says to do or not do is good.  It is what the Law prescribes.  Yet, he is not justified.

Then the tax collector comes in to pray.  He has no grandiose words to say.  He won’t even look up.  Instead, he beats his breast and prays, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”  He knows he has sinned and that he is not worthy of God’s love but he hands it all over to God’s mercy.   For this he is justified.

Now, I want to take a look at what Paul says today.  Paul speaks of how he is “poured out like a libation.”  He says, “I have competed well, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  Paul’s words might be seen as resembling the Pharisee.

Yet there is a difference.  Does Paul talk about what he has done?  Obviously the answer is yes but he also gives the credit to God when he says, “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed.

Paul gives the credit to God.

We know that pride is one of the seven deadly sins.  When we are prideful, we take the credit ourselves and act like we don’t need God.  Opposite “pride” is “humility.”  As much as “pride” is a sin, “humility” is a virtue.

I think we get confused about what humility is.  Some seem to think that since it is the opposite of pride that if we are humble, we don’t talk about the good we do.

Proper humility acknowledges the good we do and gives credit to God and anyone else who helps us.  We need to pray for God to give us proper humility so we can rejoice in the good that is done and thank God for all his help.

We pray in different ways.  We can praise God in our prayers, thanking him for the help He has given us.

We can ask God for help.  This can be in guidance or for strength.  It can be to pray for grace and healing.  Included here is our prayers for our own needs as well as the needs of others.

We can pray in different perspectives.  We can pray quietly at home or we can pray together in Church as we celebrate the Mass.  Either way, we might be looking for God to give us what we want.

With this is mind, sometimes people feel like they don’t get anything out of Mass so why come.  What’s in it for me?  In thinking this way, we miss something.

Praying at Mass isn’t all about “me.”  Are we strengthened by the Eucharist we receive?  Absolutely, but praying at Mass isn’t just about ourselves as individuals.  Thinking that every time we come to Mass we should feel instantly better misses something.

As we celebrate Mass, we come together as a community.  We pray together.  Think of it this way.  During this first half of Mass, our celebration focuses on God’s Word from the Bible.  This helps us to know how God is calling us to live.  I want to emphasis “us” because God is not speaking to each of us individually but rather as a community of believers.  The Bible is not the story of one person.  It is the story of God’s people over thousands of years.  We hear how God has cared for his people in the past and so we know He will continue to care for us today.

Mass does strengthen us as individuals but not as isolated individuals.  What we do at Mass is meant to help us realize that we are not alone.

Occasionally, someone will say to me after Mass that they felt during the homily that I was speaking directly to them.  Three comments here.

First, I’m glad to hear they were listening to what I said.

Second, I’m glad the homily was something they could relate to.  That’s the Holy Spirit guiding me to know what the people need to hear.  I want to note that I said “what the people need to hear” not what the individual needs to hear.  By this I mean whatever you are going through in your life, you should realize that you are probably not the only person going through it.  So, as you pray for yourself, pray for everyone else who is going through the same thing.

My third comment to the idea of the homily speaking to people is actually about when we might think the homily doesn’t relate to us as an individual.  Maybe it doesn’t relate to you that week but pray that it does help someone.  Pray that those who most need it, hear what God is saying to them.

So, as we pray today, we pray not just for ourselves but for each other, that we all come together as God’s people.

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