30TH SUNDAY HOMILY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: SPIRITUAL PRIDE, A SIN (VICE) THAT DESTROYS ALL!
BY: Fr. Augustine Ikechukwu Opara.
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY.
(SIRACH 35:12-14,16-18; 2 TIMOTHY 4:6-8, 16-18; LUKE 18:9-14)
Today, in this parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-Collector, Luke combines deadly earnestness with humour in a typically Lukan fashion. The pompous and self-contradictory bragging of innocence by the Pharisee is duly repellent, while the humble self-accusation of the tax-collector is something to which we can all aspire. Last Sunday Jesus gave a parable to emphasis the constancy of prayer and today he goes ahead to highlight the necessary attitude in that prayer mode. In contrasting the prayer of the Pharisee with the prayer of the tax collector, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray in humility before God. Jesus again surprises his listeners by showing the tax collector as the example of faith, rather than the Pharisee. The Pharisees were members of a sect of Judaism that taught an oral interpretation of the Law of Moses as the basis for Jewish piety. So, if anyone would be a model for prayer, a Pharisee was a likely candidate. In contrast, Jesus offers the tax collector who is collaborators with the Roman authorities in a system that allowed the tax collectors to line their own pockets by charging in excess of the defined taxes, as a model for prayer.
The Pharisee believes he is self-actualized and suffers from one of the greatest sins there is – Spiritual Pride. The problem is that our sensibilities in Christian Culture have been so long tutored by these and similar passages that the Pharisee now seems cartoonish. We can hardly imagine consciously bragging, comparing, and condemning so openly. But in spiritual pride, it’s easy to give ourselves a pass. We often arrogate our successes to ourselves but our failures to environmental factors; evaluate our negative traits as trivial and our positive traits as significant; see our faults as ‘common’ and strengths as ‘special’ and ‘distinctive.
According to St. Augustine, Spiritual pride is a special type of sin because it has a special object – it is an inordinate desire of one’s own excellence. It makes us subject to ourselves while humility makes us subject to God. The tax collector in the parable is not a victim of poor self-image, but of realistic appraisal of himself as a sinner in need of God’s help. The fact of the matter is that real difference between the Pharisee and the tax collector is not their stature in life, but rather that both were unworthy of standing before God but only the tax collector realized it. The Pharisee thought he had everything figured out but, in reality, it was the tax collector who did.
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Parables are always meant to teach a deeper inner truth and are open-ended little story and you’re supposed to apply it to your own lives and come up with what you feel this parable means to you and, hopefully, when you do that, it’ll change your life. Considering the quite different attitudes of the two men in the temple in the Gospel story today; one who is arrogant and the other humble, we should ask ourselves if we truly go into God’s presence with a sincere and humble demeanor or with self-righteousness and presumption? We can ask if we are ever looking out for the faults of our neighbor without taking note of our own. The parable reminds us that when we pray, we must remember our need for God in our lives. If we are too full of ourselves, there is too little room for God’s grace to work in us.
Finally, my brothers and sisters, we must not place ourselves where we do not belong, and place others where we feel they should be. Rather, we must humbly acknowledge our nothingness, vulnerability and weakness before God, the Just Judge. Christ, the Just Judge who acquitted the humble tax collector says to us today: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.”
God bless you
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