One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

October 28, 2007

For the Thirtieth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Luke 18:9-14

The Romans invaded Israel about sixty years before Christ was born.
The tax collection system of the Roman invaders was abusive and corrupt.
The local men of Israel who worked as tax collectors for the Roman invaders were also abusive and corrupt.
A tax collector did to his fellow citizens what Judas Iscariot did to Jesus: betraying their own for money.
It is safe to say that practically everyone hated the tax collectors.
A Pharisee, on the other hand, was essentially— originally— the opposite of a tax collector.
The Pharisees had come into being about one hundred and fifty years before Christ—when the Greeks had invaded Israel.
With the idol-worshipping Greeks occupying the nation, the Pharisee movement started up to preserve Jews from the contamination of the Greek idol worship.
So, whereas the tax collectors worked for the idol-worshipping Romans, the original Pharisees had been fiercely loyal to God and country.
Unfortunately, by the time of Christ, most of the Pharisee movement had stiffened into hollow observance.
Today in the Gospel, Christ tells a story about a tax collector— as bad, as UNRIGHTEOUS as ever— and also a Pharisee— as SELF-RIGHTEOUS as any.
These two men have come to the holy temple to pray.
You and I, like the tax collector and the Pharisee, have likewise come to the holy church to pray.
After the tax collector and the Pharisee prayed, only one of them went home “justified” in the eyes of Christ.
He went home “justified”.
Another way, a good way, to say it is that he went home “right with God.”
It was the tax collector.
It is not enough to ask or notice what he did in order to go home “right with God.”
We need to notice what the tax collector also did NOT do.
The tax collector knew he had done wicked things to God and country and neighbor.
So, in his prayer, the tax collector thumped himself— beat his breast— and he accused himself rightly and truthfully.
O God, be merciful to me a sinner.

That’s what the tax collector did, and so he was able—perhaps without even knowing it— to go home right with God.
What was it the tax collector did NOT do?
He did not point at or mention the Pharisee and his hypocrisy.
The tax-man went home right with God because he confessed his own self a sinner.
In the sight of God, who sees all and knows all, all of us are in some way both Pharisees and tax collectors.
Only one thing matters in being made right with God: to confess one’s own self a sinner.
That’s why we always begin the Mass with a public confession of our sinfulness and ask God for mercy.
That’s why we offer up the Body and Blood of Christ.
He tells us:
Take this, all of you
this is my body
given up for you
this is my blood
shed for you
that sins may be forgiven

“O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
In the teaching of Christ, that is as powerful and pure a prayer as that of the criminal who said— as Christ was offering himself up on the cross, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
We are all sinners needing to ask for mercy that we may one day be in Paradise with Christ the King.

That God Be Glorified in All


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