Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this holy day of the Lord, as we gather together as one people, we heard about that familiar parable from our Lord Jesus, about a Pharisee and a tax collector, who went to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray to God. The Lord contrasted the attitudes of the Pharisee who prayed with pride and haughtiness, clamouring and revelling in his achievements and supposed piety, looking down on others who were not like him, including the tax collector.
Meanwhile the tax collector prayed with great humility, bowing down himself and lowering himself before God and before others, for surely those who came to the Temple would be able to see that tax collector bowed and humbling himself, although tax collectors at that time were feared because of their money, their wealth and influence. But unlike the equally influential Pharisees, the tax collectors were often negatively seen as traitors to the country.
And the prevailing opinion then were obviously stacked against the tax collectors, prostitutes and all others whom were considered as unclean, outcast and unworthy of God’s salvation. And the people, the Jews became elitist in their attitudes, thinking that as the heir of Abraham and God’s covenant, they alone deserved to receive the love and the salvation of God. And chief among those who exhibited this attitude were the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.
But as the Lord Himself made it clear to one of His prophets, Jesus son of Sirach, also known as the prophet Sirach, our first reading today, that all mankind are equal before Him, in His presence. No one can claim to be better than any other based on their race, background, skin colour, appearances, wealth, status, fame or any other parameters that this world often used in order to distinguish how each one are treated.
God did call Abraham to be His servant, and by his obedience, God rewarded him and his descendants with favour beyond that was given all the other nations. But that does not mean that God favoured the Israelites alone, and condemned the other nations, the other peoples. After all, if God did not love those people whom the Israelites often called as pagans and barbarians, then why would He even bother to create them in the first place?
God created us mankind because He loved us all, and He has loved us all so much that His intention for us was that all of us may dwell for eternity in perfect bliss and happiness, knowing true joy and love in what He has prepared for them since the beginning of time. Alas, all of that were not meant to be, as in our disobedience, sin has become a part of us, corrupting us and made us to be unworthy.
Yet, God Who still loved us all so much, each and every one of us, would not give up on us. If He no longer loved us, then there would be no reason at all for Him to prolong our existence, and just as He had willed us to being, He could have destroyed us all and wiped us out from this world. Instead, He gave us another chance, one after the other, help and assistance, guidance and hope through His prophets and servants, and ultimately, by sending His own Son to be our Saviour.
God loves all of His children very much, and He desires for all of these to be reunited with Him in perfect harmony. And this require these same children, that is mankind, to be changed, transformed and altered completely in their ways, that they abandon their past ways of sin and be converted into the light and truth of our Lord. And that is indeed the essence of the Scripture readings that we heard today.
God does not look at hubris, pride and arrogance, and neither does He need any abstract and fake faith that was not founded upon true and genuine commitment and devotion to His ways. That was why He rebuked the action of the Pharisee both in the parable and in reality, because they were so full of themselves, that they had forgotten their true purpose, the purpose entrusted to them as the leaders and guardians of God’s people.
They forgot that they themselves were sinners too, just as the tax collector, all the other tax collectors, prostitutes and those who have been shunned from the society were sinners too. All of us have sinned before God, and regardless whether they are small or big, minor or major, all of us have been equally tainted by sin and therefore had been rendered unworthy before the Lord.
And unless we are reconciled with our God, we shall be doomed to eternal damnation and oblivion, in hellfire reserved for Satan and his fellow fallen and rebel angels. Certainly, this is not the fate that we want for ourselves, but unfortunately, as we have often witnessed, there are many distractions and temptations that kept us from finding the path to our salvation in God.
And one of the major distraction is that pride and prejudice we have within us, as the Pharisees and their fellow allies have exhibited. As Christians, we cannot follow down this path, as we cannot become enclosed within ourselves, trapped in the quagmire of greed and human pride. Rather, as Christians, we should open ourselves to love and to show care and concern for our brethren, all those who need our help.
And rather that condemning others for their sins, perhaps we ourselves should reflect on our own sinful ways first. Jesus told the Pharisees and all those whom they have gathered in one occasion to test Him by condemning a woman caught with committing adultery, that those who had no sin, ought to cast the first stone against the woman. It is yet another reminder that we have to be humble before God, and not to judge others before we look at ourselves.
Instead, let us offer a helping hand to our brethren in need, and all the more this is necessary because we have received the fullness of God’s truth and revelations through the Church, and thus, as the Apostles and the saints before us, we have that same obligation and responsibility given to us by the Lord Himself, that we ought to help and lead and guide each other that all of us may be saved together in God.
May the Lord help us in our endeavours, that through faith, commitment and devotion to the ways of the Lord, through humility and awareness of our own sins, we may discover the path to reach out to the Lord and find salvation in Him. May He guide us as we walk through this challenging path of life, and may He bless us always in all things, that we will persevere and not give up as we approach His merciful and loving embrace. Amen.