X Sunday after Pentecost - II Class
Epistle: I Cor. 12:2-11 [The many gifts of the Holy Ghost.]
Gospel: Lk. 18:9-14 [Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.]
Full Latin-English propers here.
It is often said that God is merciful and forgives everything. Many people defend their actions, no matter how sinful and pleasure-seeking, by saying that God forgives everything, so they can get away with living however they want. For the sake of brevity, let's ignore the fact that such thinking is the sin of presumption (upon God's mercy). While God offers forgiveness to all people, we are not capable of receiving His mercy unless we actually open ourselves up. We open ourselves up to His mercy by regretting our sins and asking God to destroy them as if they never existed.
We see two men in today's Gospel. One, on the outside practices the faith. He claims to practice the faith, he goes around acting as if he practices the faith, does everything that the laws of the religion require of him, but he hates everyone who practices the faith in any way that is different, just because it's not his way, fancying the others to be either not with the times or just people who refuse to convert and believe in the truth. Anyone who thinks differently than him is considered to be an enemy and dangerous, too stubborn to admit he's wrong and refusing to "get with it" and enter in unity with the "people of God". He goes about living a lifestyle of whatever he can rationalize an excuse for, constantly modifying and revising his moral beliefs to be accepting of whatever he happens to have a passion for at that point of his life. If he wants it, it must be good right? God would never let him desire anything bad would He? He never humbles himself before God and never regrets his sins as he rationalizes an excuse for his sins, to claim that they are not really sins at all, at least not in his situation. He thinks that because he is holy he will automatically be forgiven without needing to be contrite and actually regret his sins. It's as if he can do as he pleases, as long as he fulfills the precepts of the law.
The thought no doubt crosses his mind often that all the other pharisees behave the same way he does and they are the people that show up every day and every week, so if all of them are committing these sins, then they can't really be sins, otherwise no one would go to Heaven. After all, they are the people of God, so if they are doing it, then it must be right, right? However, when we step out of this mentality (which sounds a awful lot like certain contemporary mentalities in the Catholic Church today, doesn't it? or is that just me?) and into reality, sin is sin no matter how many people are doing it. If everyone is doing it, then that means that our predicament is that much more dire and that we need that much more prayer to rectify the situation. This man exalted himself, putting all his strengths and accomplishments on display, showing his goodness, his abilities, and all his merits. God humbles him. He is the man that did not leave justified. The exterior display of holiness means nothing if you justify your sins using an exterior display of holiness.
The other man didn't dare defend himself. He didn't dare even look up at God. He simply and regretfully admitted that he was wrong to live the lifestyle he lived and shamefully and humbly asked God to take him back. God was right and he was wrong. He was wrong to live the life he lived, he knew he was wrong to do it, he regretted what he did, he admitted it, he asked to be taken back by God. He humbled himself and was exalted. He is the man that left justified. That is how we approach God: publically admitting that we are weak and can do nothing, that we degraded ourselves further by our sins, that God is the only one who is holy, God is the only one who is in charge, God is the only one who is strong and capable of doing anything, and that therefore (1) He is worthy of being praised for what He is and that (2) we need His help if we are to ever to do anything. We cannot even call upon Him without the help of His Holy Ghost.