Readings & Homily – Sunday 23rd October 2022

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Sunday, 23 October 2022
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C
Readings on p. 1397 and Antiphons on p. 1393 of the Daily Missal and on p. 988 of the Sunday Missal.

Entrance Antiphon.

Let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice; Turn to the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face.

First Reading: Sirach 35:12c-14, 16-18b

A reading from the Book of Sirach.

The Lord is the judge,
and with him is no partiality.
He will not show partiality in the case of a poor man, 
and he will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged.
He will not ignore the supplication of the fatherless, 
nor the widow when she pours out her story. 

The one whose service is pleasing to the Lord will be accepted,
and their prayer will reach to the clouds.
The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds, 
and they will not be consoled until it reaches the Lord;
they will not desist until the Most High visits them, 
and the just judge executes favour.
And the Lord will not delay, 
neither will he be patient with them.

The Word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:2-3.17-18.19 & 23 (R. cf. 7a)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm 

R/. The lowly one called, and the Lord heard him.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
praise of him is always in my mouth.
In the Lord my soul shall make its boast;
the humble shall hear and be glad.

The Lord turns his face against the wicked
to destroy their remembrance from the earth.
When the just cry out, the Lord hears,
and rescues them in all their distress.

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted;
those whose spirit is crushed he will save.
The Lord ransoms the souls of his servants.
All who trust in him shall not be condemned.

R/. The lowly one called, and the Lord heard him.

Second Reading: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18.

A reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy.

Beloved:

I am already on the point of being sacrificed;
the time of my departure has come.
I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous judge,
will award to me on that Day,
and not only to me
but also to all who have loved his appearing.

At my first defence, no one took my part;
all deserted me.
May it not be charged against them!
But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength
to proclaim the word fully,
that all the Gentiles might hear it.
So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil
and save me for his heavenly kingdom.
To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Word of the Lord.

Please stand for the Gospel.

Alleluia, Alleluia.
God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Alleluia.

Gospel: Luke 18:9-14

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.

At that time:
Jesus 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 you 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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Communion Antiphon.

We will ring out our joy at your saving help, and exult in the name of our God.

HOMILE

The great boxer, Muhammad Ali, had just won another boxing title.

  • He used to boast: “When you are great and famous like me, it is hard to be humble.”
  • Once, on the airplane, the flight attendant politely said to him, ” Sir, you need to fasten your seat belt.”
  • Muhammad Ali replied, “Superman doesn’t need a seat belt.”
  • To which the flight attendant politely responded, “And Superman doesn’t need an airplane either; please fasten your seat belt, Sir.”

Today Jesus tells a parable about a Pharisee and tax collector who go to the temple to pray.

  • The two couldn’t be more opposite in religious standing.
  • Their prayers are also at opposite ends of the spectrum.
  • At first, the parable seems to be about prayer, but a closer look shows it is about the attitude one brings to prayer.

The reading from Sirach stresses what the parable illustrates: the prayer of the humble is heard by God.

  • Sirach says, “The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds,
    and they will not be consoled until it reaches the Lord;
    they will not desist until the Most High visits them,
    and the just judge executes favour.”
  •  Again, like Jesus’ parable, it is the attitude we bring that determines the authenticity of our prayer.
  • This message is also reinforced by our Psalm Response to the Sirach reading: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
  • The cry of the needy, disenfranchised and distressed does not go unheard by God.

This is the faith the Scriptures stir in us:

  • These days God hears the cries of the poor on our streets;
  • He hears the cries of all who are suffering because of the corruption and fraud and violence taking place in South Africa.
  • And, “the poor” who cry out and are heard by God, are also all of us who are in need, have prayed and now find ourselves waiting on God’s response.

The Pharisee who goes up to the Temple is certainly an admirable member of his religion.

  • He takes up a prominent position.
  • He thinks he has reason to brag.
  • He tithes and fasts.
  • It sounds like he puts generously in the collection basket.
  • We would probably want him in our parish community and on our parish council?
  • We would want him until he opens his mouth and reveals his shallow soul and diminished faith

In contrast, the tax collector’s prayer of penitence is stark.

  • He beats his chest, lowers his eyes and voices a simple prayer asking for mercy and forgiveness.
  • It is almost as if Jesus is inviting us to put ourselves in God’s place asking: “If you were God, whose prayer would you hear and respond to?”
  • Well, Sirach already gave us the answer: “The prayer of the lonely pierces the clouds….”
  •  So did the psalmist: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”

The Pharisee gives thanks to God for not being like everyone else.

  • He is a person of means, he has enough to tithe.
  • He lives a virtuous life; he’s not “greedy, dishonest, adulterous.”
  • He probably feels “blessed” by God for all he has.
  • So, he offers a prayer of thanksgiving.
  • But his own self-satisfaction goes against whatever sincerity he might have.

The tax collector on the other hand, doesn’t claim his due from God.

  • He only hopes for forgiveness.
  • But what has he done to deserve it?
  • Nothing, his humility makes all the difference.
  • He has placed himself in God’s hands and God has favoured him.
  • Sometimes we struggle to understand why God favours him, because we are so used to earning, or deserving, whatever goods we get.
  • Those who have little, or live in desperate situations seem forgotten, or even punished by God.

The Pharisee in us would have us take credit for our own goodness and moral superiority.

  • But if we have been set right, “justified,” before God, it is a gift God has given and calls us to live out in our daily lives.
  • We cannot gloat over our uprightness, condemn others, or ignore their need.

Jesus says the tax collector went home “justified.”

  • Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous.
  • Being justified, or righteous, are biblical terms that mean being in right relation with God.
  • Isn’t that what we believers want?
  • St. Paul tells us that being righteous/justified comes from faith in Christ and faith is a gift from God.
  • We tend to want to boast of our goodness and chalk it up to our hard work.
  • Instead faith is a gift and it is out of faith that we do what is right and pleasing to God.

The Pharisee’s prayer focuses on himself.

  • Notice how many times he refers to himself, “I thank you… I fast… I tithe… I am not….”
  • But the tax collector stands apart.
  • He knows the religious, upright Pharisee despises him.
  • The focus of his prayer is on God so he offers a simple prayer for mercy.
  • What has he done to deserve mercy?
  • There is no account of his making a sizable donation, or offering a large sacrifice in the Temple.
  • How would he ever make amends for all the people he cheated in his dishonourable work, collecting taxes from his Jewish country people for the Roman Empire?
  • He makes no restitution still, he is “justified.”
  • He recognizes who God is and who he is before God and mercy is given.

Whose side do we take in the parable?

  • Did you feel mercy towards the tax collector and despise the Pharisee?
  • But then, haven’t we done just what the Pharisee did, judge another?
  • In doing that, didn’t we place ourselves over him, as he did over the tax collector?
  • We good churchgoing people may be right alongside the Pharisee, even in our extra charitable works and prayer.
  • Do we, like him, feel entitled to God’s favour?
  • After all, we earned it!

Instead of feeling privileged we acknowledge our dependence on God.

  • At Mass, we give thanks for what we have received and recognize we are sisters and brothers to those around us in the pews and in the world – especially those who, like the tax collector, are downtrodden or despised by the community.

Paul’s writing today is especially poignant.

  • He is facing death and does what we might do in a similar situation.
  • He reflects on his impending death.
  • The second letter to Timothy is like Paul’s last will and testament.
  • Today’s passage repeats some of Paul’s major themes from previous letters, where he described himself as: a sacrificial offering; an athlete or soldier; finishing the course; running the race.

He seems calm and resigned to what’s coming, “The time of my departure is at hand.”

  • While he seems calm, still there is a tone of abandonment.
  • He has been forsaken by others, but he trusts God will not abandon him.
  • That’s hard to do if our usual supports are taken away from us.
  • I wonder how many of the victims of corruption and violence in South Africa feel deserted by God, and by local and national governments.
  • We pray that they experience the same strength Paul did.
  • Paul laments, At my first defence, no one took my part;
    all deserted me.”
  • But then he expresses his faith that God will not desert him.
  • He says, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat”

As we confront death, or lesser losses in our lives, we are reminded by Paul that nothing can be done apart from the life of faith.

  • Let’s pray that we catch Paul’s confidence in God so that with him we can say, “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength.”

From today’s second Letter of Paul to Timothy:

“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. Amen”

Reflection:

Paul’s trust in God isn’t based on his own merits, but on the Lord who, “will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.” Like the tax collector in today’s gospel, Paul is not the subject of the sentence, he is the object, that is, the recipient of Christ’s graciousness.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What touched me in the readings today?
  • Do I subtly take credit for my good works, or do I see God as their source?
  • What are my gifts to offer in God’s service? Do I acknowledge and thank God for them.

Appendix

One final note about the parable. The Pharisee acted as a “straw man,” the caricature to illustrate the parable’s point. We should not be tempted to think that all Pharisees acted in this way, for most were not as self-centred and vain as the one in this story. Even at the time Luke wrote his gospel, Christian leaders faced the same temptations of self-importance as the Pharisee in this story. Even if there was hatred between Judaism of the Pharisees and the followers of Jesus in the early centuries A.D., we should not apply the same prejudices to our modern day either against Jews or their ancestors in faith, the Pharisees. The parable simply used the image of a self-centred Pharisee to preach against the abuses of a “me-first” spirituality.

PODCAST OF HOMILE

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