A parable for not just ‘some people’
By Celia Regis, LUKE 18:9–14
St Luke’s narration of Jesus’ teaching “some people” in this gospel excerpt, could easily catch us thinking that it’s those people, whilst it’s really, we who are in focus.
How do we think that we’re ‘all that’ and we have the right to “despise” others and think of them as unworthy or more sinful than us?
These “two men who went up to the Temple to pray” are measures for each of us, as we apply the often-fragile norms of humankind, instead of God’s norms to judge our worthiness.
How ‘pharisaic’ are we in commending ourselves for what we have achieved, earned, or contributed to successful projects or missions? If we honestly assess our intentions, do we find ourselves ‘praying’ – raising up mind and heart – to attribute merit to our own power and agency?
Where is God in the wonder of our accomplishments? Have we obeyed His commandments in every way? To what extent do our professional or creative decisions honour God, from whom all things flow?
Do we consistently factor in morals, love, justice? How does worldly ‘privilege’ compare to the nobility, honour, and glory of serving God?
The pharisaic perspective is scathingly confident about nothingness, holding values which dissipate like all material things. It’s pride (and deception) which caused our first parents to fall. They lost all privileges.
The loss of the first Eve was redeemed by the humility of the new Eve, Mary, whose humility rendered her fit to be chosen for the sublime dignity as the Mother of God!
Pride often impoverishes us as Christians, depriving us of God’s grace. This changes if only we seek and open ourselves to receive, acknowledging that it is only by His grace that we live and move and have our being.
Humility and poverty of spirit bring God’s attention and blessings on us when we empty ourselves of ‘ego’, the better to be filled up with gifts to be able to rise, cope, shine and thrive.
In our home communities, we divide our people, our own kin, into zones, with boundary markers real and virtual, degrees of ‘poshness’, prestige schools and schools for low achievers, club rankings, church ministry and position posturing, preferential access to banking, social services, transport availability, meal quality, recreation options.
Here’s a struggle for some: what Pope Francis terms the “immorality of despising, alienating”, desperate migrants and refugees in our midst.
The 180 degrees turn which, even from “some distance away”, allows us to submit to God’s mercy and ardently petition the Supreme Giver, provides us with the opportunity to be seen and heard, the vibrations of heart and mind echoing throughout the heaven of supplication.
The horror of sin, the self-knowledge of which keeps us humble, is forgiven and transformed into honourable justification, so that each of us can ‘go home’ basking in God’s love, strengthened to avoid spiritual illusion and simply grateful that we count, we matter in God’s eyes.
In the final analysis, it is God alone who can authoritatively judge and “justify”, just by His Word and Will.
The gospel meditations for October are by Celia Regis, a parishioner of the Our Lady of Fatima RC Church, Curepe.