Weekly Homily from Fr Jim Hogan, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 23, 2016

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

Weekly Scripture: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Did you know God collects all the lost balloons that float into the sky,
            and if you have a big ladder and a lot of friends to help you,
            you can climb into the sky and get them back?” 
 
The gospel parable today is about two people praying side by side.  One is identified as a Pharisee.  The other is identified as a Tax Collector.  The third figure in the parable is that Gracious Mystery we name “God.”
 
Pharisees were devout, pious Jews. Their way of life and teaching were probably closer to the way of life and teaching of Jesus than any other group of that time.  However the Pharisee in the parable is clearly “narcissistic.”  “Narcissism” is a mental disorder that holds a grandiose view of one’s own talents and accomplishment.  The narcissist is focused on self, motivated by a craving for admiration and adulation.  Obviously the Pharisee is not offered to us as a model to imitate.
 
Near him another man is praying.  He is identified as an “IRS” man — a “tax collector.”  Simply because of their complicity with Imperial Rome, “Tax Collectors” were despised and shunned by their peers.  That may explain why the “tax collector” in this parable appears to be so self-denigrating.  The “tax collector” is not offered to us as a model to imitate.
 
Both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector address their prayer, as do we, to that Gracious Mystery we name God.  I like that phrase –“Gracious Mystery” because it reminds us this reality we call “God” is totally and absolutely beyond our comprehension.  We can speak about this Gracious Mystery only with metaphorical language and images.
 
To hear this parable in a new and fresh way, I offer you images from the fanciful imagination of a small child as a guide.  I have no idea where she got these images, but I think it is wonderful!             
                      “Did you know God collects all the lost balloons that float into the sky,
                        and if you have a big ladder and a lot of friends to help you,
                        you can climb into the sky and get them back?” 
 
We are people who believe there is a Gracious Mystery we name “God.”  This is the one who, in the little girls imagery, “collects all the lost balloons that float into the sky.”
 
The image of “lost balloons” includes the unfulfilled dreams, unrealized hopes, impossible tasks, untaken risks, all the good we have done, and yes, even all the bad we have done.  All of “the lost balloons” are collected in the heart and memory of that Gracious Mystery we name God, and saved!  This is a powerful image of that One who loves us and treasures everything about each of us.  Our “lost balloons” contain all we have become – fully human or less than fully human.
 
“If you have a big ladder and a lot of friends to help you, you can climb into the sky and get them back.”  This also is a wonderful image, especially the “lots of friends” part.  Among our friends are those alive and dead; those who steady the ladder for us; climb alongside us; strangers we haven’t met; those we think of as enemies, and even narcissistic politicians. “God collects all the lost balloons” and one day, when we “climb into the sky,” these are the ones who will help us get “our lost balloons back! 
 
The parable exhorts us to be humble.  Humility means living a balanced life, recognizing and embracing one’s own truth.  Humility means being genuinely and fully human.  It means loving and treasuring everything about yourself just as that Gracious Mystery we name God does.  Jesus of Nazareth is our model.  It seems quite clear to me that he lived what he taught.  He knew that…..
            “God collects all the lost balloons that float into the sky,
            and if you have a big ladder and a lot of friends to help you,
            you can climb into the sky and get them back?”  
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