30th Sunday in Ordinary time (Fr. Simham)
EMPTY VESSELS MAKE MUCH NOISE
I remember a simple fable which I heard long back. It was about a young man who was fed up with the life of this world and so he wanted to renounce this world and become a Sanyasi or a monk. He retired to the forest and saw an old Rishi or hermit doing tapas or meditation, living a solitary life. He was taken up by the life of this old man and he wanted to become his disciple. But the old monk replied “ What? You wish to be my disciple? Do you think it is so easy to be a disciple of such a great monk like me? OK. If you wish to be my disciple, cross this river; go to the other side and come back to me alive, I will accept you as my disciple.” The river was filled with predators (or crocodiles) so the monk thought that this poor fellow will be mauled to death. Young man saw the crocodiles and as he was not very interested in live anyway; he got down into the river invoking the name of his master and praising him for his austerity. It so happened that he came out unhurt after crossing the river, up and down.
Master was surprised to see him back unhurt and asked him, “what he did to come out unhurt?”. The young man replied, “Master! me your unworthy servant was invoking your name and praising you for your life of austerity. That’s all I did. And I came out unhurt.” The master was so pleased that on hearing his name even the predators were terrified. So he said “Let me ‘the terror of the predators’ go and see what respect they give me.” As he stepped into the waters he started praising his own name and ordering the crocodiles to stay away. And the story ends saying that the master never returned back. His pride brought his own downfall.
Well, dear friends in today’s gospel we come across a man who is similar to the master in the story. Look at the prayer of the Pharisee.
I thank you god…..
I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous….
I fast twice week..
I pay tithes on all I get..
And finally I am not like this tax collector…
Look at how many “I”s he has in that little prayer. The problem here in this prayer is not paying tithes, or fasting or avoiding to be unjust or adulterous etc. They are all good things done by him. They are not a problem. But the real problem with the Pharisee is “I” problem. I heard a riddle which says “There is a “pit”. What happens if I come out and ‘U’ go in?” Answer: “pit” becomes “put”. The moment ‘I’ is prepared to come out to let ‘U’ in. It becomes generosity “put” or ‘give’. That is what is lacking in the Pharisee. He has no place for you. He is obsessed with his own I that he cannot come out of the pit. He is caught up in the pit of self righteousness. In fact the parable itself is directed towards those people who prided in their self righteousness and despised others. People who had no place for others. Pride blinds man to see the goodness in others. If they don’t see goodness in others they have no place for them. They despise them. If one has no place for others it is likely that he/she has no place for God. If there is no place for God and others and then the life is empty. And the pity is that “empty vessel which makes much noise”. Look at this empty-vessel, the Pharisee how much noise he is making in his prayer.
So nothing that the Pharisee says or does is in itself, perhaps, so wrong. But where he goes wrong is in thinking that with all his list of righteous acts God’s grace and mercy are not needed for him. He is wrong in two important ways: First, He is so filled with self contempt that he has no place for God. In fact the prayer he was saying was to himself not to God. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind” is the first and the best commandment. His self-love is above God here. And secondly, he is wrong because he despises his neighbour. “Love your neighbour as yourself” is the second great commandment. Where is it? Here the neighbour is considered as a worm not man. This Pharisee seems to get the picture wrong from both angles. He fails in both the commandments of Jesus. So he is despised by Jesus.
And today I think we might be able relate ourselves to the parable. Our actions, and our attitudes about our actions sometimes suggest that we become too prideful about how good we are, or at least about how much better we’re doing than some others we know of! We always compare ourselves with others and we think we are better than others. Friends, there is a thin line that is dividing between pride and self confidence. If you say “I can do it” its self-confidence but if you say “only I can do it;” its pride. The moment we feel we are better than others and that we don’t need God or neighbour in our life we better know that we infected with the virus called ‘pride’. Let us ask the Lord to give us the jab of ‘humility’. Amen
Fr. Showreelu Simham