Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Pete Iorio
October 22, 2022 - 5:00 PM
October 23, 2022 - 8:30 AM
Heavyweight boxer Mohammed Ali used to boast: “When you are great and famous like me, it is hard to be humble.” I love this story and ones like it especially when I get a zinger. I will explain in a moment. One time, on an airplane, the flight attendant politely said to MA, “Sir, you need to fasten your seat belt.” Ali replied, “Superman does not need a seat belt." To which the flight attendant politely responded, "And Superman does not need an airplane either; please fasten your seat belt, Sir." When somebody puts me in my place, I like it… to eat humble pie because it challenges my sinful pride.
In the Gospel today, Jesus tells a parable that contrasts two men at prayer. The Pharisee thanks God that he is better than the rest of humanity. WOW!! That is arrogant pride on full display. He exalts his own pious religious acts and judges the rest of humanity including the other man praying as sinners. As he often does, Jesus is changing the way people think. It bears repeating that a Pharisee was a highly respected member of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity. I am very aware that as a religious leader myself, this teaching is meant especially for me. When not in check, the ego has a desire to defeat or to expose the other person as bad or wrong. One way I recognize that I am not centered in Christ is when I get caught in the throes of reacting to someone or something. Taking time to breathe, to reflect and to respond in love are good practices when we are tempted to be judgmental or superior like the Pharisee in today’s Gospel.
In contrast, the tax collector was, at that time, a recognized sinner who cooperated with the Romans and cheated his fellow Jews. His prayer is simple: O God, be merciful to me a sinner. He realizes his wrongdoing and does not justify himself but asks for mercy.
When any one of us takes the stance of humbly confessing that I am not perfect; I am not better than anyone else; but I am in need of God’s mercy, this is the kind of person and the prayer that Jesus praises.
This month, we continue our focus on Stewardship. Last week, we heard beautiful testimonies from our parishioners on how they live as stewards of God’s goodness. This weekend, we priests highlight the theme. Just to let you know: This is not the sermon on the “amount.” (pun intended) I am certainly not telling you how much to give of your time, talent and treasure. It is not about numbers. It is about our inner attitude.
I am inviting all of us to reflect on all that God has given us… simple things like air, food, freedom, love, the beauty of East Tennessee, family, friends, a job, ability to go to school and learn, ability in sports or other talents… Are we truly grateful for these things? In the spiritual life, we know that we are not grateful enough if we complain all the time or if our gratitude is based on comparing ourselves to others like the Pharisee of today’s Gospel.
During this parish stewardship appeal, I ask you to pray about giving to our parish community only after you pray in thanksgiving for all your gifts from God. I believe that the main reason for giving is NOT as we commonly think: I give because the parish needs my gift. That way of reasoning emphasizes that there is a need out there. I believe that the main reason to give is because there is a need in here, inside me, in the divine core of my being to give, to imitate God who is love and constantly gives. Bishop Robert Barron constantly preaches about the Law of The Gift: our own life will increase in the measure that we give it away. Many of our speakers on stewardship last week have said that they receive much more than they give. This is experiencing the Law of the Gift.