Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Pharisee, a tax collector and some baseball fans

The Publican and the Pharisee by Christian Dare
 Homily for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)
Audio for homily 


Pharisees don’t fare very well in the pages of the gospel
but it seems this Pharisee did many good things:
he fasted and he prayed
and he gave ten percent of his whole income to the temple.
A generous man, he was not greedy;
a truthful man, he was not dishonest;
faithful to his wife, he was not an adulterer.
and all this by his own admission because if nothing else --
he counted himself more virtuous than everyone else
and certainly a better man than that tax collector over in the corner.

The only thing this Pharisee might have left off his list
was his joy in the Yankees loss to the Rangers. 
Listen for it:
“I thank you, Lord, that I’m not a Yankee’s fan,
miserable and despised in the eyes of all!
I rejoice in their loss to the Rangers because in their failure
my team takes comfort and goes home satisfied.”

That's the Pharisee's prayer...

And judging from the tax collector’s simple, one line confession,
O God, be merciful to me, a sinner...
there’s little doubt that he did many bad things --
perhaps things too shameful for him to even mention out loud.

(Who knows?
Maybe he was a Yankees fan!)

And yet, it’s the tax man, the sinner
who goes home justified -forgiven- in God’s eyes
while the apparently virtuous man goes home
with little more in his pocket than his biased self-approval,
all pumped and propped up by others’ failings.

This scene brings to mind the rationale many of us have,
myself included,
for not coming more often to the sacrament of reconciliation,
to confession,
It’s so easy to say to ourselves,
“Me? A sinner?
Well, I’m not a murderer or bank robber or drug dealer…”
Or, as the Pharisee put it in the parable,
“Thank God I’m not like all the others - so many sinners!”

And perhaps it’s true that like the Pharisee
we, too, do many good things.

But aren’t we also like the tax collector?

Don’t we also have reason to ask, even to beg for God’s mercy?
Let’s take a look…

• In spite of the fact that in many ways I have more than I need,
in a world where so many have nothing or next to nothing at all,
do I find myself complaining that I don’t have enough?

• Am I so stretched to the limit working to provide for my family
that I’m too busy to spend time with my spouse and my kids?

• Though I may be a very busy pastor,
do I keep just busy enough to avoid the things I least like doing?

• If I’m a teen, do I say I appreciate and love my parents
but seldom give them the time of day, let alone my affection?

• Do I keep my mouth shut
when a situation begs for someone to speak up?

• Do I allow my pledged love, my promised fidelity,
to fray at the edges,
outside the company of my spouse, my beloved, my ministry?

• In a divorced family, am I fair and just with my ex and my kids?

• Do I excuse my dishonesty at work, my cheating at school
by comparing myself to others more dishonest than I am?

• Do I say things behind my neighbors’ back
that I’d never say to their face?

• In big things and in small things,
do I stretch or deny the truth to insure my own comfort?

• Am I faithful to prayer outside and beyond my times of urgent need?

• Do I hold and live with old grudges and resentments
rather than making peace with those with whom I’m at odds?

Well, I’m sure that you and I could add many more questions to that list,
questions that would find us off in the corner like the tax collector,
humbled, contrite and acknowledging our need for God’s mercy.

Make no mistake about it:
the good news in this parable is aimed precisely at any of us
who might have felt uncomfortable listening to my list of questions.
It’s folks like the tax collector -- and you and me --
who are invited to seek the healing of God’s mercy.

The Pharisee? He went home satisfied with himself - andd alone.

The tax collector went home with God in his heart,
God who filled him with peace when he bared his soul
and asked for forgiveness.

Today, you and I have “come up to the temple to pray”
and like the Pharisee and the tax collector
we stand before God and one another.

Let none of us point to the failings of others to justify ourselves
but let all of us bow and bend low before the Lord, Jesus,
who bowed his head on the Cross
and invites us to his table to share, to feast on,
the gift of his mercy.


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4 comments:

Philomena Ewing said...

Love this: Yankees v Rangers - Are they both Boston based ?
I'm a bit lost on the game here in the UK.

Austin Fleming said...

Ah! I feared the reference might be too regional for all my readership! No, neither the Yankees nor the Rangers are Boston teams - The Rangers are Texan and the Yankees hail from New York. The Boston Red Sox are not in these games leading to the World Series but the animosity between Sox and Yankee's fans runs very deep! Thus, the Rangers' win over the Yankees left a sweet taste in the mouths of Boston fans. Hope that helps, Phil!

Philomena Ewing said...

Thanks for the explanation. I get it now! The nearest tribal stuff here might be in soccer: Celtic v Rangers or Liverpool v Everton.

Anne said...

Really liked the homily Austin. I am impressed with your knowledge of the baseball rivalry.
Your words, aside from baseball, touched a place in my heart. Thank you.