• Sirach 35: 12-14, 16-19 30 • 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18 • Luke 18: 9-14 • 30 Ordinary C’13 •
Scripture Readings: Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 10.27.2013
Before considering the parable in today’s gospel, please listen to this story. I hear some similarities with the parable. The governor of a New England state was campaigning hard for re-election. One day, he arrived late at a campaign barbecue. He had no breakfast or lunch, and he was ravenous hungry. As he moved down the line he held out his place and received one piece of chicken. The governor said to the serving lady, “excuse me, I am starving. Do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?” The woman replied, “Sorry, I’m supposed to give one piece to each person.” He repeated how hungry he was. Again she replied, “only one per person.” The governor was a modest man but decided this time it was appropriate for him to “pull rank,” so he said, “Madam, do you know who I am? I am the governor of this state.” She answered, “Do you know who I am? I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Please move along.”
It is quite obvious, and most of us have known since the first time we heard this parable and every time we read or hear it since, that this parable is about humility. “Who ever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” I suggest there are significant truths here beyond the obvious.
The parables attributed to Jesus in the gospels are meant to help us awaken our minds and retool the way we think. So I invite you to ask: “how does this parable seek to retool our minds and help us experience God’s new reality among us?” I think part of the answer is found in the similarities in the two characters of the parable.
One character was a Pharisee. Pharisees were considered to be perfect; to have the ideal relationship with God. The self-adulation of the Pharisee is familiar to us. His “holier-than-thou” attitude is neither honest nor realistic. Whenever I hear such “self-adulation,” especially if it involves making comparisons with others, I immediately suspect this person is extremely insecure and lacks confidence in his/her own goodness.
The other character was a Collector of Taxes. Those in this profession were considered“ritually unclean” and considered to be traitors and social parasites. No wonder he “stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” The self-abnegation of this Tax Collector also is familiar. (Pardon my choice of words here) His “I am not worth a shit attitude” is neither honest nor realistic. Whenever I hear “self-abnegation” I immediately suspect it expresses extreme insecurity and a lack of self-confidence in his/her own goodness.
Jesus sought to retool our minds by transforming our mental images of what God is like. In doing so he also sought to transform our self-image and our images of how God relates to us.
God is love, unconditional love, and does not play favorites. Everyone is equal and all are loved unconditionally. There is nothing you must or can do to be loved, except like the Tax Collector to open self to Mystery, and accept God’s love for you without boasting or condemning.
So let us go back now to the story about the governor at the campaign barbeque. “Madam, do you know who I am? I am the governor of this state!” She answered, “Do you know who I am? I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Please move along.”
It is that simple. We, all of us, each and everyone of us is beloved by God and need do nothing to earn that love. At the same time, recognize and be confident in your own God given goodness. “God’s new reality” is emerging in Christ, among us, in you and in me, even now as we sit here together. So hold out your plate, and keep moving.