30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“In Front Of God We Are All Empty Handed!”
The Lord is our judge. The one thing we know for certain about his judgement is that it favours the humble, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Does our foolish pride cause us to become arrogant, pretentious and filled with self-importance? Do we regard ourselves, as more virtuous and superior than our lost brothers and sisters and therefore need to be rewarded? The Gospel of today will not be easily understood unless we keep in mind what the first reading teaches us of the justice of God. God is just says Ben Sira, not because he grants each person with what that person deserves, but because he saves the poor and listens to the cry of the miserable and defenseless. The Gospel is telling us that God has this same attitude: he is moved by the ‘Publican’ who only presents his miseries and sins in humble repentance.
Also the second reading could be seen in this light. Paul is saying that one day he will receive from God the “crown” that he, the ‘Just Judge’ will give to all those who have spent their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Paul is expecting it as a gift, not as a prize due to him.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit
to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible. These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings. These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings. ‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 35:12-14, 16-18.
The reading from Ecclesiasticus that is assigned for this Sunday comes from a section of Ecclesiasticus that seems to be intended to discourage extortion and injustice toward the defenseless and the poor. In the full text, the author tries to discourage powerful people from thinking that what has been squeezed out of the poor ‘widows and orphans’ can be used to provide a sacrifice, which God will be pleased. The remaining verses of the reading tell us about the ‘prayer of the poor’. It pierces the clouds like a flaming arrow. It reaches the very throne of God where it will not be put aside until God sends back an answer, which will be just, and right.
This is the order that God gives to those who administer justice in Israel: “You will take no bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and ruins the cause of the upright (Deut 16:19).” One cannot expect impartiality from a judge accepting bribes. In a society where money can prearrange or even fake the proceedings and sentences of the courts of law, some may even think that they can try the same trick with God, the ‘Supreme Judge’. Ben Sira makes a strong attack on this false way of thinking: “Do not try to bribe him (the Lord) with presents (sacrifices), do not put your faith in wrongly motivated sacrifices” (Sir 35:11).
He then goes on to where the reading of today begins, to explain the reasons for his condemnation: “The Lord is the final ‘Judge’, and with him there is no partiality.” He sees into the depths of the human heart. Only the sincere are acceptable to him. He will set things right, whoever the person might be. What does the Lord mean? According to our way of thinking, it means that he will reward the good and punish the wicked, without discriminating between poor and rich. But for him, and here is the surprise: “not to show partiality,” means to side with the poor. Like it or not this is his justice! He will ensure that those whom the world treats badly, the orphan and the widow, will find just treatment.
Those who look for justice in God’s court must do their part too, by engaging in humble and persevering prayer. “The one whose service is pleasing to the Lord will be accepted”, Ecclesiasticus says, and “the prayer of such person will reach the clouds”, and will not stop until it reaches the throne of God. Do we realize how the tears and grief of those whose affections and love have been betrayed, the moans of the victims of injustice, even the blasphemies of those who are upset by sorrow and despair, are all cries that rise up to heaven are heart-rendering prayers for help addressed to the Lord?
God is just and is moved by the poor. He is always compassionate and passes a favourable sentence of salvation on persons who go to him without boasting merits, and have only poverty and misery to rely upon. A well-known preacher often said, “In the reign of God, if you are not poor, you had ‘better be a friend’ to the poor.” Despite Ben Sira’s protestation that God has no favourites, it is pretty clear throughout the Scriptures that God has an eye for the least, the weakest, and the despised of the world.
The Psalm also celebrates God’s concern for the unfortunate. Whatever their trouble might be, the psalmist is confident that God will eventually redress their troubles and deliver them from their distress.
The psalmist has experienced God’s protection and care in his own life and is therefore talking from his own happy experience. He also shares his wisdom that the only way to true happiness is the fear of the Lord, which means avoiding evil and doing good.
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18.
Paul, in the second reading, begins with what seems to be a boast. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith.” This was not boasting. Paul was simply stating the direction his life took after meeting the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus. As his life drew to a close he looked ahead, putting his total trust in God and expressing the hope that God would give him “a crown of righteousness”.
Paul knew that a crown would also be given “to all who have longed for the Lord’s appearing”. Paul also knew that it was not his own strength that enabled him to follow Christ and put his hope in a crown of righteousness. Rather, as he acknowledges at the end of the second reading, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. ‘To Him be the glory forever and ever’. Amen.”
The Gospel tells the story of “two men [who] went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” We should know the story quite well.
The Pharisee, standing by himself, gave thanks that he wasn’t like some other people and then proceeded to verbally list his own many virtues. ‘It almost seems that the Pharisee said his prayer to himself and not to God’. The tax collector, standing at the back, didn’t even feel worthy enough to raise his eyes to God but kept “beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’” The prayer of the humble tax collector pierces the clouds. Jesus says, “I tell you, this man went back home justified rather than the other.”
The parable challenges the whole idea that we can consider ourselves righteous and superior to others because of what we do. This attitude is unfortunately still fairly common today. Some groups of Christians call themselves ‘saved’ and consider everyone else who has not had the same religious experience as sinners. The justice of God accepts the unjust and the ungodly [Rom 5:6-8] and is harsh on the dutiful and the respectful.
‘Religious self-righteousness’ is the most despicable form of pride. It is the root of bigotry. Pride is first in the list of the seven deadly roots of sin. Pride does not walk humbly with God but marches to another drum … in disobedience, intellectual rebellion, and disregard of the commandments, self-deification and pomposity.
The parable summons us to a prayer of love, trust and humility for God’s mercy and frees us of our need to tell God who is a sinner and who is not. It particularly addresses those people who pride themselves on their virtues while despising everyone else. It focuses on those who honour themselves by humiliating others. We need to develop humility, both before God and in relationship to others. Humility is poorly understood these days. Many people confuse it with a negative self-image and a denial of the positive aspects of their lives or the good that they do. Being humble does not mean thinking that we are worthless, it simply means keeping our worth in its ‘proper perspective’. This means to always acknowledge the ultimate source of the good that we do, and maintaining the proper attitude with respect to that source: that is ‘God’!
Are we Pharisees or tax collectors? Maybe we should be both, combining the actions of the first with the attitude of the second.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following
30th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C, we reflect on :
Sun. … When we give unjust favour to anyone at the expense of another more rightful or more deserving person, we become blinded to the ‘truth’. We become imprisoned and entrapped by our ‘unjust bias’ and it will cause our eventual spiritual ruin. We need to feel the pain and hurt of those unfairly treated and discriminated against in order to realize the harm we have committed. Mon. … Ben Sira makes a strong attack on this type of action and thinking and says: “Do not try to bribe the Lord with presents and sacrifices, do not put your faith in ‘wrongly motivated’ sacrifices. Tues. … Those whom the world treats badly will always find ‘just treatment’ from the Lord. The Lord is responsive to the cries of the poor, and if we believe that we are judged by our relationship with God’s little ones, we had better give the poor a good reason to put in a favourable word for us. Wed. … In the second reading, Paul had found himself alone at his trial. Paul had witnessed with courage and integrity his faith in the Gospel. Paul’s acceptance of his imminent martyrdom contains the seed of what all Christian death should reflect: surrender, confidence, trust and forgiveness. With no indignation to hold us bound and by the grace of God, we may pass freely from this world to the next. Thurs.… Religious self-righteousness is one the most despicable forms of pride. We cannot hide our true identity from God. We need to unmask ourselves even if we don’t like what others may see. If we are ashamed – we need to change! Frid. … The parable summons us to a prayer of love, trust and humility for God’s mercy and frees us of our need to be superior by priding ourselves on our virtues. We need to keep our worth in ‘proper perspective’ and to always acknowledge the ultimate source of the good that we may do, and maintaining the proper attitude with humble respect to that source: God our Creator. Sat. … Could there actually be a place where ‘showy virtues’ would be dismissed and ‘sinners’ would have a chance? Heaven is such a place! We contribute to the ‘Divine Plan’ by lifting up the lowly. When we love and humbly respect our neighbour, we love and respect God.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we are inclined to put our ‘best foot’ forward while concealing the ‘other limp foot’ as best as we can. We all tend to hide our weaknesses and our failings, push up ‘false-fronts’ and we seldom allow ‘the real me’ to appear. Let us from today bury our foolish pride and believe in Your love and compassion. Like the Publican may we pray humbly: “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.