Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In our gospel for today the Pharisee comes to the Temple, not to cry out for help, but to remind God of his goodness: He fasts. He pays tithes. He reminds God that he is not like so many others who are grasping and crooked and adulterous, sadly the Pharisee has no sense of dependence on God; he is so full of himself that he doesn't recognize his own emptiness. He does not have enough sense to ask God to help him be a better person. He thinks he has everything. He leaves the Temple with nothing[1].

Saint Paul in the second reading, the orphan and widow in the first reading, and the tax collector in the parable, all have a sense of total abandonment, and they recognized their need for God. They ask God to fill their emptiness. They are justified, raised up to God by his gratuitous mercy.

We –and that’s the lesson for today- we come before God because we are so empty. We recognize how our sins have left us isolated in our worlds. We have lost close friends because we have not been able to control our tongues. We have destroyed relationships when we have allowed fantasy to be confused with reality. We have not loved as we could love because we have tried loving ourselves instead of others. As a result there are times that we don't even like ourselves. So we come before the Lord, alone, abandoned by some whom we love, perhaps abandoned by our own self esteem. And we ask the Lord to hear our cries.

And He does hear, and he responds with the greatest gift there is. He calls to us on the cross and asks, "Do you think that you are the first person to feel abandoned?" He responds with His Presence. He tells us to believe that He is with us, Emmanuel: God with his people[2]. Our lord fills up our emptiness. He helps us to love by seeing His presence in others. He helps us to love ourselves by seeing the capacity we have to reflect His Image to the world. He gives our lives meaning[3].

Every Sunday we begin Mass with a penitential rite. This brief liturgical action reminds us of our dependency on God, we ask for mercy for not responding to His Grace. Only after we recognize our need for God we are open for accept the gifts of His Love: His formative Word in scripture, the renewal of our salvation on the cross, the nourishment of His Eucharistic presence.

Our prayer today is the Pilgrim's prayer, the Jesus prayer: Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner. Lord Jesus, Have mercy on me a sinner. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner[4]. And throughout the pilgrimage of our lives, we cry out Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the Word and I shall be healed[5].

[1] Sunday 28th October, 2007, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Readings: Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14, 16-19. The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Ps 32(33):2-3, 17-19, 23. 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18. Luke 18:9-14.
[2] Mt 1:23.
[3] I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (Joh 15: 5)
[4] Lk 18,38.
[5] Cfr Mt 8:8

ilustración: Abraham and Isaac (1783), William Blake, Drawing and watercolour, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris