2013/10/27 - Homily - 30th ord. Sunday

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                                  Justice or Injustice ?

Two man enter the synagogue. Both stand to pray. Both are poor; one of them is aware of this, the other is proud and self-sufficient. One compares himself humbly to others. The other one only talks to God about himself, comparing himself with thieves, adulterers or even the man standing next to him. 

It is easy to compare the Publican’s job with that of a thief or even a traitor. And maybe the Publican was in fact guilty…which would explain why he comes to the synagogue to pray. But the Pharisee, full of himself, didn’t feel guilt or remorse.  Both came at the same time to the Synagogue to pray, both call out to the same God but the difference is that one was SATISFIED with his life and the other SEEKING FORGIVENESS.

Did they get what they came for?

The Pharisee returns home, satisfied with his own life. The Publican, feeling better, will probably take a lot of time to realise how important his prayer was for his new life   starting over  precisely  at this moment.   He confessed his sins and received God’s loving forgiveness.  Feeling guilty and receiving new life with real friendship from God and his brothers and sisters, will take a long time.   

And in our life it is exactly the same. We have been forgiven, but sometimes the feeling of guilt persists.  We need to understand that forgiveness brings RELIEF but the feelings of guilt can take time to go away.  And during that time, God’s grace is working within us and healing us.

Let’s return to our two men praying in the synagogue.   

One leaves the synogogue justified, but not the other.  What happened ?  Why wasn’t the Pharisee enlightened by God’s grace?

Jesus tells us this story to show us just one of  the many aspects of our faith. Surely, our conscience tells us what is important in our life? But our conscience  needs to be guided.


  • The publican  even though he had a terrible job, was open to God. A poor tax collector who just couldn’t continue living like this, doing such a job. He needed God to survive. 


  • The Pharisee, on the other hand, only needed God to confirm him for what he was.

Both stand before God, but is it really the same God? For one God is called upon to approve his apparent righteousness, for the other, God is called upon to hear his cry from the heart.

But how do we know that God really hears? Jesus ensures us that he does. One left the synagogue justified, but not the other.

The first reading tells us about how God listens to those who are oppressed. But what kind of sin or oppression are we suffering from? 

Recognising our poverty is the only way to be true and honest with ourselves. Our faith puts us on the path of righteousness with God.  When we see our poverty and recognize our need for help, then we can truly cry out to God for help. Just like the poor person in the first reading, we can be sure that God will hear our prayer.  Even Saint Paul, who felt totally abandoned by everyone at the end of his life, confessed his spiritual poverty. By recognizing our need and crying out for help to God, we can be sure that we have someone great and reliable who will hear us and respond. 

Have you ever been in such situation, when you cannot do anything but recognize your poverty? The publican recognizes his own sin and his need for God. He didn’t just want to be understood by God, he wanted to be honest with God. He didn’t expect God to justify himself; he chose the way of truth and was completely honest. This is how we need to live our lives: Sometimes we need to cry our need out to God so as to get rid of the Pharisee in our own lives, that stupid, selfish, self-satisfied part of ourselves.  We need to look deep in to the heart of our own solitude in order to truly understand ourselves and meet God.

We often think that experiencing our own poverty is not good for ourselves, but it is only by knowing our genuine poverty that we can be truly honest with God and ourselves.  When we acknowledge our own poverty, as the Pope calls us to do, we are then able to hear the voices of so many other men, women and children crying out with their own needs.

I don’t know and maybe never will know who  out of the Pharisee of the Publican was the richest man.  But I do know that the Publican was justified by God who gave him grace to be happy.

“For everyone who exalts himself with be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”

«You oh Lord know our heart, you know we want to be at peace with you, we know you understand  our  true prayer. We desire to be justified only by yourself, almighty and merciful God ».