This is a syndicated post from Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse. [Read the original article...]
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.
What the Pharisee said. “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector.”
Does anyone really pray like this? Honestly, I don’t know anyone who does, but I must admit this is how we often talk about ourselves: very fondly.
And maybe that’s the Lord’s point. Is this Pharisee really praying? Of course not. What he is doing is going over his résumé. And to him, it looks pretty darn impressive.
But for someone who has read a lot of resumes, and has hired and fired a few people, as soon as I read this, I said to myself, “This is too good to be true.” And it is. It’s all one-sided.
Are your prayers all one-sided?
Let’s examine for a moment this Pharisees’ prayer.
Thank God I’m not like him. As the Pharisee took his place and looked around, he got a good look at the brutal reality of sin. But instead of being humbled by the experience, he became boastful. Rather than saying, “Thank God I am not like these others,” he should have said, “There, but for the grace of God go I.” That would have been better, a lot better. How could he not have known this? Wasn’t he an expert in the Law? Doesn’t he know human nature?
Not yet. When your child shouts to you and says, “Mom! Look at that guy with all the tattoos!” The best thing to say is to them is, “Honey, wait until you grow up.” When your teen makes fun of the old folks, the best thing to say to them is, “Honey, just wait.” When your son makes fun of all the fat people, just say to him, “Did you ever see a picture of your dad when he was your age?”
The Lord is the perennial Teacher. He is constantly educating us, illuminating us and, most importantly, humbling us.
When we read the newspaper and are shocked at what we find, be careful. These things could easily happen to you, especially if the stars align and you find yourself in their situation.
When I was boy, I thought someone had to be out of their minds to break one of the commandments. Then I became a teenager. When I was a seminarian, I believed other seminarians were just excusing themselves by questioning their vocation. Then I experienced my own wave of doubts. When I was a priest, I thought some priests were just plain lazy. Then I grew old.
This tax collector. The Pharisee made one fundamental error in his prayer: he compared himself to the wrong person. A tax collector. How convenient of him. It was an easy target, a soft target. The wrong target. Why? Because maybe the tax collector never received the education he received. Maybe the tax collector went to a public school all his life. Maybe he grew up poor. Maybe his parents were poor, very poor. Maybe he grew up on mean, very mean, streets.
Regardless, the Pharisee’s comparison is a low blow, a cheap comparison, equivalent to that of a child and an ant.
Like children, ants always have to be careful. They are the small kid on the block. They always have to look over their “shoulder” and look up. They always have to give the right of way to others. And like children, their biggest enemies are children. Since kids can’t beat up on their big brother or mom or dad, they go after the little guy, an ant. So what does a child do to an ant? As soon as he sees it he steps on it. And then he smiles. Maybe even pounds his chest.
This is exactly what the Pharisee did. He started beating up on the little guy.
Do you do that? Do you compare yourself to ants, to the little people? Do you step all over them? “I wanna talk to the store manager!” “I’m gonna sue you!” “I’m gonna get you fired.” “Wait until you hear from my lawyer.”
Do you not realize you were called to be like Christ. “As the Father loves me, so I love you… Love one another as I have loved you.” If we are to compare ourselves to anyone, then it should be to Christ.
Stop judging! Stop condemning! If there is one common thread throughout the Pharisee’s “prayer”, it is his remarkable ability to judge others so succinctly, so neatly and so harshly.
So why shouldn’t he judge the tax collector? Simple. Because he doesn’t have all the evidence. He doesn’t know him from the inside out. This is the reason why we should never judge anyone, and this is the reason why God can judge everyone. He know everyone inside and out.
We will never have all the information. But I know what you are thinking: I can’t help myself! I know. I can’t either. So what can we do? Well, we can still judge, but only if we always come up with the same conclusion all the time; that is, this person really needs my help.
It is divine to err on the life-giving side than on the life-ending side.
Let us avoid jumping to conclusions. Watch out! An old monk recently told me what his old Irish grandmother once told him: “The one exercise we do most in our life is jumping to conclusions.”
The fruit of personal prayer is get closer to the Lord. Where is the Lord? ”The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves” (cf. Psalm 34). If you want to get closer to God, then a good shortcut would be to get closer to the brokenhearted.
Let’s pray for others, not condemn them. Let’s help others, not hurt them. In this way, we will be close to God and neighbor. (61)