30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
Grandmother used to point to a man in church whom she’d known since they were both children. “He was such a pious boy,” the grandmother always said approvingly. “He’d be in that same third pew each morning earlier than any of us, and he’d stay later. He knelt so long, with his back so straight, and his hands folded together perfectly. It was an inspiration to me to see how he loved God.” The grandchild approached the man in question and asked him what his experience of childhood fervor was like. He sighed deeply and confessed, “I was in love with the girl in the second pew. She was like an angel. Each day I’d try to get there before she did so that I could absorb every available moment of her presence, and I stayed afterward until the scent of her was entirely gone.”
Another story is said about a Catholic family. The family consisted of older brother and a younger brother. The older brother never missed going to the church; praying in the morning and evening and daily reading of the Bible. Whereas the younger one is not like that; he does not even go to the church; does not pray his morning and evening prayers and does not read the Bible. Hence, the older one thought that ‘he is good … and his younger brother is very bad’.
One day a newly appointed father in the parish visited the house for a blessing. He talked to everyone in the house and asked the brothers, “Do you have a habit of praying to God?” The older one said, yes, father!” I go to the Church every day and attend Mass; I pray the morning and evening prayers and I read the Bible daily, but my brother does none those things and he is too bad. ”
When the new priest calmly listened to what the elder had said and said to him, “You should have not gone to the Church and prayed daily and read the Bible daily instead stayed at home like your younger brother because those who go to the church regularly and who pray daily and read the Bible daily will not pass judgement on other! These words went deep into the older brother’s heart. After that he is not complaining about his brother. The message is that no one who criticizes or judges others will be a righteous person. The lord hears the cry of the poor.
On this thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary time, the Church reminds us that the Lord is a Just Judge who favors the humble and the just.
In the first reading, Sirach exalts us on the justice of God towards the poor, orphans, widows, and the weak of our society. This is coming at the heels of a time when just judgment has become a thing of the past and the highest bidder wins. In the “Heavenly Court”, God the Just Judge remains resolute to ensure that justice is upheld.
We are called to be like God the Just Judge who acquits the virtuous by delivering just judgment. Also, Sirach assures us that in as much as we are humble, prayerful and persevere in doing good, God will surely be there to vindicate us as the psalmist says: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor” (Ps. 34:6).
In the second reading, Paul, having played his part perfectly well, now confidently awaits good judgment from the Just Judge. He boldly asserts himself: “I have fought the good fight to the end, I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me.”
There is only one thing that can give one such a confidence. This is, a life well-lived in humility, and the fear of God. If we are already living a good and humble life we must not stop. Rather, we must struggle to the end and to the finish line. When Paul was yet to accomplish the race, he wrote: “I do not claim that I have already arrived…I move on towards the goal to win the prize” (Phil 3, 12-14).
In the gospel, Jesus reminds us, that judgment belongs to “God who searches what searches the mind (Jer 17: 10).” He is the one who knows all our intentions and actions. So, it is not for us to judge others because at times, human judgement can be biased. What transpired between the publican and the tax collector is typical of the scenario we see us every day.
Self-righteous people often judge people wrongly because of their own weakness of mind and ignorance of how God operates. Such people look at themselves as the role model that others must imitate, or as if they are the only holy ones. They always wear the “holier than thou attitude.” So, they are quick to condemn others. However, God judges differently.
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.”
For many of us, it is difficult to walk into a Church, even our own parish Church. We enter, and we look at the tabernacle. Perhaps the thought comes into our minds: God is looking at me. How does he see me this week? Was I better? Was I worse? Some of us may have been away from Church for a few weeks, or months, or years. Maybe we need to talk to Him about our absence. For some of us that might mean our absence from practicing the faith on Sundays, and receiving communion. For others, perhaps for most of us, that might mean our absence from practicing the faith in our daily lives. Sometimes it is scary to look at the tabernacle. Sometimes we want to join the Tax Collector and sit in the back and say, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”
For some of us, it is difficult to walk into a Church. But God is here. We need Him. We need His Mercy. We need the strength of His sacraments. We need to walk into the Church because we need the strength and the courage He provides. We need His grace so we can walk out of the Church with Him.
Fr. A. Francis HGN