Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Piercing the clouds

Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time—C

Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18
2Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

Some of the descriptive words employed by the inspired authors in Sunday's readings are telling. Sirach speaks of the weak, oppressed, orphan, widow, and the lowly. St. Paul, meanwhile, is imprisoned and knows that “the time of my departure is at hand.” He also is lonely. “Everyone deserted me,” he says. The Pharisee in the Gospel parable derides the greedy, dishonest, the adulterous.

In one way or another, and at one time or another, these terms describe us all. Surely, we may think, the God of Justice has no use for any of these. Our hope, though, comes in the most unlikely of persons: Jesus points to the tax collector, considered at that time to be the most despicable of all human beings. There, in the corner of the temple, he humbly acknowledges who he is and asks for God’s assistance. The tax collector, though far from perfect, recognizes his need for God, and so is justified in His sight.

The self-righteous Pharisee, on the other hand, has done many commendable things, but takes credit for them himself. He doesn’t really need anyone, including God. As Sirach points out, “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds.”

A truly humble person, the author of The Cloud of Unknowing said, “stands in the truth with a knowledge and appreciation for himself as he really is.” When we approach God with that kind of transparency, as the tax collector does, the Lord stands by us and gives us strength—and the “crown of righteousness” awaits us. Thanks be to God.

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