Dear Brothers and Sisters,
A news reporter once asked Mother Teresa if she had ever been tempted to be proud. Mother Theresa retorted with a smile, “Proud about what?” The reporter replied, “Why, about the wonderful things you have been doing for the poorest of the poor!” Then came her answer, “I never knew I had done anything, because it was God who worked in and through my Sisters and volunteers.” True humility differentiates a saint from a sinner. If we are proud of our talents, our family connections, our reputation, or our achievements in life, today’s Gospel tells us that we need Jesus to rid us of our pride and make us truly humble. Let us eliminate the Pharisee and revive the publican in each of us. We become the proud Pharisee when we brag about our achievements giving no credit to God, when we seek praise and recognition from others for our accomplishments, and when we degrade others with insensitive comments, hurting their feelings. In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to imitate the humble publican (tax collector) by acknowledging our total dependence on God and His grace for all our achievements and blessings; by confessing to God daily our sinfulness and asking for His pardon and forgiveness; by praying for God’s continued daily support through His grace and for His strengthening through the daily anointing and of His Holy Spirit living within us; and by becoming more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others, serving them as best as we can.
I hope we all pay attention to the second reading and hear what St. Paul is showing us about the difference between humility and self-justification. As he wrote this letter to Timothy, Paul sees his imminent martyrdom. He writes, “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, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for His appearance.” Although, like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable, Paul reports his accomplishments, but like the publican, he humbly acknowledges the source of strength for the success of his apostolate: “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.” He doesn’t rely on self-justification. He says he is justified in Christ Jesus.
Let us rid ourselves of self-justification. It is a tragedy that those who justify themselves leave no room to receive grace. God cannot give grace to them because they are not ready to receive it; they are too full. If we are proud and complacent, there is not much room for God. On the other hand, if we are truly humble we will find grace, mercy and peace. There must be a space in our lives for grace to enter and work its miracle. One lesson of the parable for us is that we must keep our focus entirely on God and our relationship with Him, recognizing that we are constantly in need of His mercy and forgiveness. Let us ask for God’s unconditional love and mercy during the Holy Mass. Let us conclude with the Divine Mercy Prayer: “For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world.”
God Bless You,