Homily 30th Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
· Sir 35:12-14,16-18;
· Ps 34:2-3,17-19,23;
· 2 Tim 4:6-8,16-18
· Luke 18:9-14
Trusting Humility and Willing Service to God and Neighbors
In today’s Gospel of Luke chapter 18, our Lord continues his journey to Jerusalem in order to die for us. On this journey, began in Luke 9:51, he teaches, heals and forgives sins. Today in particular, he uses the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector to teach us trusting humility, self-surrendering like St. Paul, in the 2nd reading, and willing services to our neighbors, particularly to the poor and to the lowly.
From this Gospel (Luke 18:9-14), and historically speaking, we know the Pharisees were those that Jesus had to face throughout his ministry. The Pharisees were those who kept the law, or at least thought they kept the law, while the tax collectors however were engaged in a profession that some thought extortion and dishonesty might slip in. The differences between the two as the went up to pray in the temple area is that the former(the Pharisees) thought he had everything and claim to be righteous; while the tax collector(the later) had a sense of unworthiness, humility and needs for God’s grace.
In this gospel parable the behavior of the Pharisees represents pride, arrogance and self-justification, especially when he says, “I thank you God I am not like the rest of humanity- greedy, dishonest, adulterous, and even like this tax collector… I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes…. The Pharisee thought that God is a company manager one could bribe or go to work for, a prevalent in our society today- the corruption and the “pay-to-play.” But how many times do we not ourselves think that we have it all, or tends to behave like this Pharisee?
Truly, as believers, what the Lord expects of us in our relationship with him is nothing else than the spirit of prayer, humility, and total surrendering to God in good times and in bad times. This attitude of humble prayer and total surrender to God is what Psalm 34, and Ben Sira of the 2nd century BC, emphasize in that 1st reading. To the poor, the oppressed, the humble, those who surrender themselves to him, the orphans, widows, and the marginalized in the exile, the Lord hears their cry (Ps 34).
Another good example on one who was once a sinner, but later decides to surrender himself to God is Saint Paul of today’s 2nd reading. He was once a persecutor of the faith, but later reverses his life style and won the crown of Glory, by serving the poor, pouring his life like a libation, for the sake of the gospel! In fact, being a new creation in Christ or getting to wear that crown of glory and righteousness, Paul says, demands that every Christian, all of us, reverses our natural tendencies (2 Tim 4:6-6, 16-18); to dominate, keep for oneself, control next door neighbor, follow the money, follow the politics, embrace false sense of security, neglect the truth, discriminate against our neighbors, especially those who do not look or speak like us, claim self-righteousness, like the Pharisees of today’s gospel parable, or pretend to be self-sufficient to the neglect of the poor!
No, the Lord invites us today to rethink and rearrange our priorities. We can do this in many ways, especially by imitating the humility and total self- surrendering of the tax collector of today’s gospel, and that of St. Paul and others, who poured their lives as a libation, by prayerfully trusting in God's saving grace in their relationship with God and with their neighbors.