The readings for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time present God as a tidal wave of goodness coming toward mankind, ready to transform anyone prepared to receive His relentless love and mercy. God looks for receivers of His mercy who become lights of joy and hope in a world that lacks meaning and purpose. This fuels an appetite for repentance which leads to exquisite joy.
In the first reading, Sirach tells us: “Though not unduly partial toward the weak, yet He hears the cry of the oppressed. The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.” These vivid images, “the wail of the orphan” and the “complaint of the widow,” portray a resourceful and loving God who quickly comes to the aid of the most needy and vulnerable who have no one else to help them.
He says, “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.”
St. Anselm tells us that “the glory of God is man fully alive!” We might also say that the glory of God on earth is vastly enhanced when we both receive and share His mercy and His love.
This is powerfully demonstrated in Paul’s letter to Timothy: “I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.” Paul knows only too well that since his conversion experience, he has been at the receiving end of God’s incredible mercy, and he has therefore become a powerful channel of God’s mercy to the Gentiles and to the whole Church.
Yes, the pouring of God’s mercy into his heart has led to incredible sufferings for Paul, but these sufferings have given him deep meaning that has driven his life.
The more Paul suffered to proclaim God’s mercy, the more he was filled with the joy of the Lord. The more Paul suffered to bring God’s mercy to others, the more he was impelled to suffer even more, ever mindful that without God’s mercy he would not have a future with God. “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
He joyfully concludes this section by stating: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to His heavenly kingdom.” Could anyone hope for more?
In the Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the two people who went up to the temple area to pray. The Pharisee prided himself on how good he was! “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.”
Everyone familiar with Greek drama knows very well that the person filled with such pride is ripe for disaster. That is what Jesus is trying to tell us about this Pharisee. He is too full of himself and therefore has no room for God.
On the other hand, the tax collector has an abundant room and need for mercy. “But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”
Have you ever met anyone more spiritually sluggish than a person full of himself? Such a person is in profound sorrow at missing out on the spiritual joy that can only come from having Jesus very alive in his heart. Furthermore, since he acts as his own god, he has nothing greater than himself to expect in his future.
These three readings demonstrate that we have such a rich future with Christ, provided we have the courage to ask Him to show us our sins. Don’t be afraid: His list will not be as bad as the list you draw up. As Jesus shows us our sins, He simultaneously gives us the desire to receive His mercy. That is a joyful experience.
The most joyous people I know are the ones who live a life of daily repentance. Why is this so? The more we live a life of daily repentance, the less we will be plagued by negative thinking about ourselves and others. Negative thinking recedes as we repent of our sins of rashly judging others or even ourselves.
Every time we think negatively about ourselves, we end up in self-condemnation, which is Satan’s trap. When we leave the confessional, we ought to be as excited about the mercy we have received from Jesus as He is in giving it. He wants us to complete His joy by rejoicing in the freedom He has just given us.
Besides, daily repentance goes a long way in enabling us to get rid of the attachments related to our habit of judging others.
God sent His only begotten Son into the world, not to condemn the world but to save it.
One thing is very true. The more you live a life of daily repentance, the more of God’s compassion you will experience flowing through you and out to others. This fills us with Christ’s joy.
Do this as a friendship thing with Jesus. “Jesus, here is a person whom you obviously must love more than I do! Could I enter into a partnership with you in loving this person? Perhaps this might be the breakthrough I need in discovering how to love others as you love me!”