October 23, 2022
Jesus gives us a simple, practical model that we can follow. It makes an eternal difference in our lives. One lie to reject. Two truths to acknowledge.
- Pride and arrogance: I’m great.
- Humility: Acknowledge the truth of my sin.
- Trust in God and His Mercy.
- “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
This is a computer-generated transcription that has been included to make the homily searchable. It has not been verified by the author.
“I tell you; this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.” These two men seem to be doing the same thing. They both went to the temple to pray, and yet there are extremely different results. And so, it’s helpful for us to learn because we’re all of course, we’re all here at Mass. But Jesus is showing that there can be very different results, one goes justified from being at the temple praying, the other doesn’t. And so, what can we learn so that this time is fruitful for us, as we’re here at Mass? And that the striking thing is that the one who thought he was justified, left not justified. And the one who felt himself as a sinner was the one who left justified. So, what can we learn from this gospel? A focus on three points. And the points are simple points. It’s not complicated. So, the first point is what not to do. So, the first example Jesus gives, well, first of all, the Gospel says – Who is he talking to? It says he was speaking to those who trusted in themselves. Because there’s so much in our society, which is always saying, trust in yourself, you have to believe in yourself, you have to trust in yourself. And that’s the one that Jesus is talking to, those who trust in themselves. And that’s the opposite of what the image of Divine Mercy says, Jesus, I trust in You. Those who trust in themselves, that they were righteous. So, those who feel themselves righteous and despised others. So, Jesus is making us aware, because He, as God who sees things very clearly, what is we don’t know all that’s going on in people’s hearts. But Jesus who sees very clearly, sees this danger. And it’s a big danger for those of us who are trying to follow a spiritual life, or trying to live our faith, the big danger of spiritual pride. The gospel says that the Pharisee took up His position and spoke this prayer to himself. It’s interesting, he spoke the prayer to himself, as if he’s right, talking to himself, and his prayer. God, I thank You that I am not like other men extortionist and just adulterous, or even like this tax collector, I fast twice a week, I give tithes on all that. Again, so he’s very satisfied with himself. And, again, it’s a danger, we’re trying to live our faith and oftentimes, also, especially at the beginning of our spiritual journey, God gives us graces, graces to help us begin a new life. Many of us have experienced that where God helping us to making us feel an attraction to the Lord and attraction to prayer. And so, and even some of the maybe things that we had struggled with before no longer become a struggle. And so, we feel like we’re advancing very quickly in our spiritual life. What we don’t realize is, so much of that is not so much something that we have done, it’s the grace that God has given us. Many times, at the beginning of that spiritual journey, He protects us from temptations. And so, we feel like, wow, yeah, that’s not even a problem for me anymore. But it’s not necessarily that I have become so holy, it’s that God, to help me begin that path is protecting me. And so, in that situation, where a person is trying to follow the Lord more seriously, the devil often changes tactics. And instead of using the evident temptations that were affected before, he uses much more subtle temptations of pride, of spiritual pride. And so, the Lord is showing us what not to do, the danger of spiritual pride. But then He shows us what to do. And again, it’s not complicated. I’ll speak of two things. Jesus gives us a model. Here, an example. And the model is not a perfect person. That’s not a saint. It’s a poor tax collector who’s not just a normal sinner, but who is known publicly as a sinner. And so, Jesus is not taking unrealistic some person it’s way, you know, some extremely holy person that would say, “Oh, I could never do that.” He’s taking a person who is very much struggling with sin, very much a sinner. But Jesus is wanting us to learn from this sinner’s attitude. So, what did he do? He said, the tax collector standing far off, that this should be the, Well, I mean, that’s kind of typical the attitude of Catholics for the Church, it’s good that you all, some of you are sitting up close because too many Catholics, they’re too far off. But that’s not the, I don’t think that’s the point of this tax collector standing far off. You can even sit outside here in chapels. The really holy persons are the ones sitting outside, the tax collector standing far off, we’re not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, “Oh, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” So, Jesus wants us to learn from this tax collector, what he was doing was so effective, that he left justified. And so what are we supposed to learn from him? So, one thing is that he is humble, he is recognizing that he is a sinner. And that is a very, when we realize that there’s sin in our life, one very positive step, very helpful is simply to recognize the truth of our sin. The act of humility. So, a few words about humility, what humility is and what it isn’t. And I’ll read a passage from St. Faustina. So she’s making a point that humility, is not making ourselves seem worse than we really are. She said, “when at the beginning of my religious life, following the novitiate, I began to exercise, exercise myself, particularly in humility. The humiliations that God sent me were not enough.” So she’s trying to be super humble, so that not just accepting the humiliation that God gave her. “And so in my excessive zeal,” so she’s saying that this zeal was exaggerated, excessive, “I looked for more than on my own.” I just, I remember one time playing basketball. And I said, Well, I’m going to pray for humility during this game. That’s the last time I ever did that. It wasn’t good. “So, I said, No, that’s okay. I’ll just take what comes, but I’m not going to ask for it. So, in my excessive zeal, I look for more of them on my own. And they often represented myself to my superiors, other than I was in reality”. So trying to make yourself look worse than she really was. “But a short time later, the Lord gave me to know that humility is only the truth. The truth about myself,” but that’s a very helpful simple statement. Humility is just the truth, it’s not trying to present ourselves as worse than we are. But it’s just being truthful. There’s enough when we’re just being truthful, we don’t have to add to it. And she also said, “it’s not cringy” she says, “I never cringe before anyone. I can’t bear flattery for humility is nothing but the truth.” Again, she’s insisting humility is nothing but the truth. “There is no cringing in true humility. Although I consider myself the least in the whole convent. On the other hand, I enjoy the honor of being the Bride of Christ.” So this is kind of the paradox that by ourselves, we are poor sinners. But as she’s saying that she also realized that she has been chosen by God’s grace to be the bride of Christ. “Little matter that often I hear people say that I am proud, for I know that human judgment does not discern motives for actions.” So, humility is recognizing the truth. It doesn’t mean that there’s no good in us we have talent, and we can have virtues, but the good in us comes, first of all, from God. As Saint Faustina says “when a soul recognizes that of itself, it is only wretchedness and nothingness. Of ourselves we are only wretchedness and nothingness.” And that doesn’t mean we don’t have good but she says whatever good we have, is “whatever good we have is a gift from God. When the soul sees that everything is given us freely as a grace, and that the only thing it has itself is its own misery. That is what sustains it and the continual act of humble prostration before the majesty of God. If there is a truly happy soul upon Earth, it can only be a truly humble soul. At first one’s self-love suffers greatly on this account. But after a soul has struggled courageously, God grants that much light by which and sees how wretched and full of deception everything is. God alone is in its heart.” And then listen to what she says, “A humble soul does not trust itself.” Again, because our world is always telling us that you’ve got to believe in yourself. She says, A humble soul does not trust in itself. If we’re a poor, if I’m a poor, weak sinner, why should I trust in myself, I’m capable of all sorts of junk if the Lord doesn’t sustain me. So our trust is not, that’s a big danger, a spiritual eye for trusting too much in ourselves. So humble soul does not trust in itself, but puts all its confidence in God. And that’s one of the reasons that God may permit us to struggle with temptation. Because He’s helping to preserve us from pride, and to not be putting our trust in ourselves. As St. Paul says, because God had given St. Paul’s saying that God had given him a lot of graces. And St. Paul says, “to keep me from being too elated, by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.” So, we don’t know what that was. But the Lord’s permitting something to harass him. And then the passage we heard from the Psalm today, which can be so helpful, “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted, those who are crushed in spirit He saves.” So, it doesn’t say the Lord is close to the holy and pure, which is also true. But it says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” Just the fact that being broken hearted, draws the Lord to a soul. Those who are crushed in spirit, He saves. That was today’s Psalm. So that’s the first positive step, the act of humility, of recognizing my own wretchedness and sinfulness. But that’s not all. Because the danger could be that I get very discouraged. Because when I recognize the truth of my own sinfulness, then I can become very discouraged. But there’s something, there’s an even greater truth. And a greater truth is the truth of God’s mercy, trusting in God’s mercy. So, what does the sinner say? What does the tax collector say? He doesn’t just say I’m a sinner, which would be an act of humility, which is good. But what else does he say? “Oh, God, have mercy on me.” So it’s not a long complicated prayer, right? It’s a very short prayer. It’s one sentence. But he left justified. So, he says, “Oh, God, have mercy on me. Because I’m a sinner.” Because again, the devil can make us realize our sin, but in a way which causes us to despair. And so, he turns to the Lord, he calls out to the Lord, trusting in God’s mercy. So, we need to acknowledge our sin, but not focus on our sin. Because that’s another tactic of the devil. When a person does recognize his sin, then the devil says, Okay, well, they’re recognizing their sin. So, I’m going to do something else, I’m going to have them just focus on their sin. And so, we’re just focused on our sin. And we don’t even dare to look at the Lord because we’re so focused on our sin, and that’s what can lead to despair. And so, we should acknowledge our sin. But our gaze should be on Jesus, focused on Jesus and even though that’s why we have the image of Divine Mercy in the confessional, because just the image helps. It helps us because I’ve often given this example, think if you had in front of you on one side, you had a mirror on the other side, you had Jesus, and some people spend their whole time looking spiritually in the mirror. They’re always focused on how am I doing and even maybe that can be with pride. It can also be with humility, recognizing my sins. But the true humility is not always focused on my sins, it’s turning to Jesus. So, it’s not always looking spiritually, I say in the mirror like an examination of conscience, that’s good to make it but the most important thing is to keep our eyes on Jesus. In fact, that’s the best way to make an examination of conscience, is to ask Jesus, “you help me to see how you see me.” So, we’re not just doing an examination of conscience by trying to figure out ourselves how we are. But we’re asking, we’re keeping our gaze fixed on Jesus, and asking Him to reveal to me how I am. Because I’m not justified by my own careful examination of conscience, and trying to fix myself, what justifies me is the grace of Jesus Christ. And so, our gaze should always be focused on Jesus, if my gaze is focused on Jesus, He will make me aware of the sins that he wants me to be aware of. But it’s He Himself, who does that. And so, it’s not my own effort and my own understanding, but it’s Jesus Himself, in the grace of the Holy Spirit. We talked a lot, the past months about the great gifts of the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit is beyond my own understanding. And so, I think that that’s a very important image to keep in mind. Because a lot of times in confessional, I sense that that the people are focused, that they’re discouraged, because they’re always looking at themselves, and looking at how bad they are. But they’re not looking at Jesus. It’s not going to save me, looking at myself. I should recognize my sins, but don’t waste time doing it. It’s Jesus, it’s when I’m focused on Jesus, it’s trust in Jesus, that saves us. It’s faith in Jesus that saves us. And so this very prayer, that this prayer, which is so effective, and you know, it’s not just the words, but that the attitudes expressed in his prayer, are so effective that many Christians, especially Christians in the east, this became an Orthodox tradition, this famous prayer. So it’s just instead of saying, Oh, God, it’s adding the name of Jesus, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner. That very simple prayer, which is an act of humility, I’m a sinner, but it’s an act above all of trust in Jesus. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, for I’m a sinner. So, by myself, I’m just a sinner, but by God’s grace, I am a child of God. And so, we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when there’s mortal sins, especially when there’s mortal sins, especially for mortal sins. But Jesus is also inviting us to learn these key attitudes, of humility, and trust in His mercy. And so, to conclude, just the way the truth helps me to reject the lie, that I’m perfect. That’s to Jesus, talking to people. Just to acknowledge the truth, the truth of my sinfulness, but the much greater truth of God’s infinite mercy. And so, the Church right away or right in this very Mass, you know, the Church is inviting us to live this because we began, we already began by saying, I confess to Almighty God, that I have greatly sin and then resighting the Kyrie Eleison and Lord have mercy. And right before Holy Communion we’ll say again, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” I trust in your healing graces. And so, with our Blessed Mother, we can make, with following the example that Jesus gives in the Gospel, make that simple prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Amen.
KEYWORDS / PHRASES:
Psalms 34:2-3, 17-18, 19,23
Sacrament of Reconciliation