Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 150 (NAB Translation)
This week’s first reading is on from the book of the Book of Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus), part of the great wisdom literature in the Old Testament. This book was written approximately 180 years before Christ during a time society was very polarized with Jew against Gentile and rich against the poor. Sirach wanted to teach his readers to avoid hypocrisy (so rampant in the Temple area) where many rich and powerful people made a spectacle of their worship while at the same time living lives that neglected and even oppressed the poor. The key to overcoming this hypocrisy was honesty and humility. External acts of piety are not an adequate substitute for true justice and true worship could only come from a humble heart that genuinely sought the Lord.
The response for this Psalm is from our Gospel: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
In this week’s second reading (from his second letter to Timothy) Saint Paul, having had recent difficulties with false teachers, realizes that his days on earth are now numbered. He is eager to have Timothy carry on the work that he himself was doing and wants to be sure that Timothy’s faith does not waver and that the Gospel is not corrupted. Saint Paul is just about ready to accept martyrdom and uses athletic imagery to describe his perseverance, noting that he has “fought the good fight” and has finished the “race” and kept the faith unpolluted. Saint Paul’s desire is that Timothy and all Christians follow his example and be rewarded with the Crown of Righteousness on judgment day.
In this week’s Gospel from St. Luke, we see Jesus make very clear that humility is the only acceptable attitude to have toward God. Jesus contrasts two men, a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisees had a reputation for seeking righteousness. Too often, however, their pride allowed their piety to became an externalized form of self-righteousness. By contrast, the tax collector, known for being a notorious sinner recognizes his dependence on God’s mercy and begs God for forgiveness. Jesus says that this man’s humility has put him in the right relationship with God while the Pharisee’s attitude cannot win forgiveness because he lacks the right attitude toward God. This is Jesus’ warning to any of us who might yield to the temptation to think we win God’s favor by “doing things,” while neglecting the humility and contrition necessary for the true conversion that wins forgiveness.
Reflection question from Bishop Vásquez
Righteousness is the state of being in right relationship with God – being in a state of grace. Justification restores the fractured relationship with God. The Pharisee in today’s Gospel does all the right things: he fasts, tithes, is honest, and is not greedy. As important as actions are, he wrongly believes his actions justify him before God. The tax collector, on the other hand, knows he has fallen short and is entirely dependent upon God’s mercy. He gives us the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The tax collector went home in a state of grace because he humbled himself before God. What is the motivation behind our actions? Is it humble service to God? God hears the prayer of the lowly servant.