YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: THE PRAYER OF THE HUMBLE PIERCES THE CLOUDS
BY: Fr JB Mbbah-Offor.
HOMILY: Sirach 35: 12-14. 16-19; 2Tim 4:6-8. 16-18: Luke 18:9-14
Humility is the quality of not being proud because you are aware of your bad qualities. A humble man does not expect special treatment by others, while a proud man is greatly wounded if the special treatment does not occur.
Today, the Church presents to us the Gospel of Luke 18:9-14 which talks about the parable told by Jesus about two men who went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee was a proud man whereas the tax collector was a humble man.The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, telling God how good he was. But the tax collector, standing far off, would not lift up his eyes to heaven, telling God to have mercy on him.
Pharisees are members of ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity. Tax collectors are known as publicans and they are mentioned many times in the Bible ( mainly in the New Testament). They were reviled by the Jews of Jesus’ day because of their perceived greed and collaboration with the Roman occupiers. Tax collectors amassed personal wealth by demanding tax payments in excess of what Rome levied and keeping the difference. Because of that, they were hated and branded as sinners, first class citizens for hell fire by the Jews, more especially the Pharisees.
The pharisee in this parable was proud, judgemental, vain, arrogant, boastful and uncharitable in his prayer. Every word in this Pharisees prayer is reeking with self- complacency. Even the expression ” prayed with himself ” is significant, for it suggests that the prayer was less addressed to God than to himself and also that his words could scarcely be spoken in the hearing of others, both because of their arrogant self- praise and of their insolent calumnies of all the rest. He did not really come to pray; rather he went to inform God how good he was.
He went to the Temple because it was a public place and he wanted to be seen by men as pious ( Matt 6:5).He was full of himself. There was no love for God in his expressions. There are some Christians who behave the way this pharisee behaved. The pharisee made no petitions. He stated his claims and tacitly expects that God will meet them.
The Tax collector prayed to God telling Him to have mercy on him. He stood far off, not daring to come closer to the sanctuary. When he stood before God, he felt his unworthiness and uncleanness. He did not rush in where even angels fear to tread. He admitted his sinfulness before God and people, and he waited for forgiveness. He uttered a small prayer – ” Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” His prayer was short, but it was an answered prayer. He accepted that he was a sinner, and the Almighty God granted his prayer for mercy.
Jesus said that it was that heartbroken, self- despising prayer which won him acceptance before God. Prayer should be full of humility, should be attentive and trusting. Sirach 35: 17 says that the prayer of the humble pierces the cloud. We Christians should be humble and learn the way the tax collector prayed.
No one who is proud can pray. No one who despises others can pray. In prayer we do not lift ourselves above others. True prayer comes from setting our lives beside the life of God. When we stand before God, we should have a great reverence for His presence and holiness.
There should be certain decorum and decency in our approach and in our dress. We come before God as sinners and nothing else. Micah 6:8 says, ” What does the Lord require of you, but to do Justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” We are all expected to walk humbly before God and pray to Him. Brethren, let us accept that we are sinners, humble ourselves before God and ask for mercy. Peace be with you.
Fr JB Mbbah-Offor.