I’m settled back at Riverside after having attended Mass in Keremeos this morning. We were treated to a visiting Priest, Fr. Jack, and to a homily that really resonated with me. I’d like to share the essence of that Homily with you. The Gospel reading today was from Luke 18: 9-14, and is the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector attending at the Temple to pray. There is more about the parable below.
Fr Jack set the scene by asking us to imagine that each of us stands under a Rainbow. One end of the Rainbow is anchored in God’s Justice and the other end of the Rainbow, where the pot of gold would normally be, is anchored in God’s Mercy. The biblical meaning of God’s Justice is “Right Relationship”.
Many of us, and I count myself among the many, were raised in our Catholic Faith with the idea or attitude that we could attain Heaven by doing a fairly credible job of observing the Rules and Regulations. The idea that observing the rules and regulations was secondary to building a loving friendship with God received little if any emphasis although I am sure that the great Saints in our history would have perfectly understood this. Yours truly however did not. The light bulb has only come on in more recent years.
We were created to be in relationship with God and our heaven begins on earth as we experience and mine that relationship. Once our friendship with God is established we want to observe God’s laws and the rules and regulations established to help us to nourish that relationship.
God is a God of great patience and Mercy. We begin though by standing under the Rainbow and experiencing God’s Mercy by seeking to be in right relationship with Him.
In the parable recounted in today’s Gospel we can analyze where the two men were in their relationship with God by placing them under the Rainbow. The Pharisee, entrenched as he was in the proper observance of the Mosaic Law, justified himself by his observances. In his dishonesty he acknowledged no faults and therefore did not find himself in need of God’s mercy. He contrasted himself in righteousness by comparing himself to the Tax Collector and other people who were thieves, rogues and adulterers. The Tax Collector however in his honesty acknowledged his sinfulness and asked God for His mercy. We can speculate based on the comments of Jesus that the Tax Collector recognized the need to be in right relationship with God by asking for his mercy. The Pharisee on the other hand thought his observances were sufficient.
All of this is helpful in our efforts at evangelization as we seek to bring Jesus to others. Encourage others to focus first on the relationship with God and allow God’s mercy to do the trick as the grace of the Holy Spirit helps to build that “Right Relationship”.