Theme: THE LORD LISTENS TO THE PRAYER OF THE HUMBLE
1. Today is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year C. The readings today tell us that the Lord listens to the prayer of the humble. The gospel today tells us that two men went to the Temple to pray; one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee said this prayer to himself, ‘I thank you God that I am not greedy, unjust and adulterous like the rest of man, particularly, I am not like this tax-collector here. I fast twice a week and I pay tithes on all that I earn’. The tax-collector on the other hand stood far off, not raising his eyes, beat his breast and said, ‘God have mercy on me a sinner’.
More importantly, the gospel today tells us that the tax-collector was justified but the Pharisee was not! The tax-collector was justified not because he was holier than the Pharisee, but because he was humble. That is, he acknowledged his sinfulness and more importantly, he acknowledged his dependence on God who is merciful!
The Pharisee was not justified, not because he was less holy than the tax-collector, but because he was proud! He was not even praying, he was praising himself!
Last Sunday the readings told us to pray continually and persistently! This Sunday the readings tell us to pray humbly, because the Lord listens to the prayer of the humble, but rejects the prayer of the proud! Thus the gospel concludes:
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted”. (Lk 18:14; SM)
2. The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading also tells us that the Lord listens to the prayer of the humble! Thus the caption of the first reading: “The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds”. (Si 35:17; SM)
That is, the humble man’s prayer touches God! The cloud is a symbol of God. The humble of the first reading are the poor, the widows and the orphans, that is, those who acknowledge their helplessness and hopelessness and more importantly, those who acknowledge their total dependence on a merciful God!
Again, the opposite is equally true, that is, the proud man’s prayer cannot pierce the clouds, that is, it cannot touch God! The proud man is one who is self-sufficient and who does not depend on God!
3. The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. Thus the response:
“This poor man called; the Lord heard him”. (Ps 33:7; SM)
The responsorial psalm has three stanzas. The first stanza thanks God for deliverance (vv. 2-3; SM). The second and third stanzas tell us that God protects the poor (vv. 17-19. 23; SM). (CSB; NJB)
4. The second reading does not follow the theme of the Sunday, but the second reading has something very important to tell us!
The second reading tells us that St. Paul after preaching the Good News in the face of suffering and persecution has come to the end ofhis life. He is facing imminent death. He will be executed as a martyr. More importantly, the second reading tells us that he will receive the “crown of righteousness”!
Most importantly, the second reading tells us that the Lord was with him all the time from the beginning to the end! The Lord was with him when he proclaimed the Good News, when he was persecuted, when he was put to death and the Lord brought him to heaven! Thus we read in the second reading:
“But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (2 Tm 4:17-18; SM)
Last Sunday, Mission Sunday, the second reading told us to preach the good news!
This Sunday the second reading tells us to preach the good news even in the face of persecution and we will receive the “crown of righteousness”! More importantly, the second reading tells us that the Lord will be with us when we preach the good news and when we are persecuted and the Lord will bring us to heaven!
5. Today we thank God for his Son Jesus Christ who taught us to pray and we ask God to give us the Holy Spirit of his Son Jesus Christ so that we may pray with humility, acknowledging our sins and acknowledging our total dependence on God who is merciful.
Today we also thank God for the Good News and we ask God to help us proclaim the Good News even in the face of persecution, suffering and death, so that we too may receive the “crown of righteousness”! Amen!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.