Wednesday, October 30, 2019

HOMILY Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C October 27, 2019

HOMILY    Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time  Cycle C       October 27, 2019

          I want you to know that I can sing LOUDER than any other Paulist in Austin.  Such is my boast.  I mention this because our readings today are about boasting, and that is the best I could come up with. 
          In our second reading today we hear St. Paul state: I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.   From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day,…”    Well, that sounds pretty boastful.  I have competed well;  I have finished the race;  I have kept the faith!”      Way to go Paul!  You did great.  And Paul recognizes that.  He says “From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day,…”   Certainly, no false humility here.  Paul has won the crown of righteousness and has no hesitancy in telling us so.  Boast on St Paul!
          In the Gospel we hear a Pharisee boast: O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity -- greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector. 
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.”
          Doesn’t that sound just a bit like St. Paul?  Yet we hold St. Paul up as a great Saint – for Paulists the greatest Saint after Mary – and yet we scorn the Pharisee as a proud, pompous braggart.  Why?  Why is Paul’s self-promotion boasting and the Pharisee’s self-promotion bragging?  What is the difference?
          Both St. Paul and the Pharisee attribute their success to God.  The Pharisee says “O God, I thank you…”  The Pharisee is giving God the credit, at least verbally, just as St Paul does.   What is the difference?    
More importantly, how do we know when we are “boasting” appropriately and when we are being “self-righteous wind-bags”? 
          The issue that makes the difference is how you look on everyone else.  Because the Pharisee despised other people, especially those who did not live up to his moral code.  The Pharisee says: O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity -- greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector.”   The Pharisee is using his accomplishment to separate and distance himself from others and worse, to hold himself above others.  As the Gospel states, they: “were convinced of their own righteousness, and despised everyone else. 
          There are plenty people today, in the Catholic Church, who are convinced of their own righteousness and despise everyone else.  They especially despise Pope Francis for not being strict enough and adhering rigidly to Catholic doctrine, especially about sex.  Pope Francis’ pastoral outreach to the divorce and remarried, to gays and lesbians, to people of other faiths, and other cultural traditions, upsets and angers them.  You can find a lot of that upset and anger on the internet.  And I believe it is pretty clear that, like the self-righteous Pharisee in the Gospel, they despise others who do not come up to their high moral standards, especially around sex.
          St. Paul doesn’t do that.  St. Paul instead in giving God the credit recognizes just how much he is like everyone else; not how much he is unlike others.  In recognizing that everything is gift St. Paul admits that he is just like everyone else.  His accomplishments are not from himself, but are God’s gift. 

          None of us chose to be born.  None of us chose when or where to be born.  None of us chose what kind of family with what economic advantages or disadvantages we would have.  None of us earned our health, intelligence or native abilities.  None of us provided for our childhood education, or what inspirations and role-models we would have in life.  All that, and much, much more was pure gift. 
          In acknowledging our accomplishments then we really are thanking God for wonderful gifts we have received.  But we also are recognizing our fundamental identity with all human beings, no matter how enriched or how impoverished, no matter how brilliant or how mentally challenged, no matter how agile or how crippled, for we do not start out on a level playing field.  It is all gift.  All of our accomplishments are fundamentally based on gifts we have received; gifts we did not earn, gifts we did not even deserve. 

          When we boast of our successes and accomplishments, we must boast of them as gifts, and recognize they are given to us by God to share.  The gifts we have in talent and abilities and advantages are not meant for us alone, but for all.  And when we boast we must recognize how all of us - no matter the color or nationality or religion or sexual orientation or politics – all of us are all beneficiaries of God’s love.  And we are all one.  Our boasting is meant to bring us together, not to pull us apart.
          That is why the tax collector went home justified:  not only because he was repentant, but also because he recognized his fundamental humanity, the need we all have before God.  In that, we all are the same.  AMEN.  

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