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Just A Thought or Two . . .

October 25, 2013

Things Are Not Always What They Seem

Wayne Rice tells the story of an elderly woman who went grocery shopping.  When she walked out of the store she noticed four men getting into her car.  In a panic, she raced to her car, reached into her purse and pulled out a canister of Pepper Spray.  She aimed the spray at the men and yelled for them to get out of the car before she used the Pepper Spray.

The four men quickly opened the car doors and started running as fast as they could go to a neighboring mall.  The woman was shaking and tried to calm herself down.  As she watched the men disappear, she loaded her groceries into the car.  As she settled herself in the driver’s seat, she decided to go to the police department and report the “carjacking incident.”

She took her keys from her purse.  There was a problem.  The key would not fit in the ignition.  A glace around the car quickly told her that she was in the wrong car.  Her car was parked four spaces away in the same row.  She loaded her bags in her own car and drove to the police station to confess what she had done.  As she reported her story, the officer nodded to the end of the counter where four very shaken men were reporting a carjacking by a very angry, elderly woman.  The woman apologized, and no charges were filed.

Things are not always as they first appear.  We’ve all been guilty of jumping to conclusions.  Before even taking a look, we assume the worst.

In Sunday’s Gospel from St. Luke, Jesus tells a parable that speaks to this very message.  Two men went up to the Temple to pray.  One was a Pharisee, respected by his family and friends, the other a tax collector, despised by all who knew him.

The Pharisee prayed a prayer of thanksgiving.  “O God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of humanity . . . greedy and dishonest or even like this tax collector.”  Then the Pharisee reminded God, “I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.”

“The tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”  The tax collector had nothing to brag about.  He only asked for mercy.

The Pharisee had avoided evil and obeyed the Law.  He addressed his prayer to God but the prayer is really focused on himself.  In the spirit of self-righteous contempt, he compares himself to others.  He forgot an important truth.  Salvation is a gift.  There’s no way to earn it.  We just joyfully accept it and know that all of God’s people have received the same invitation.  God doesn’t make comparisons.  God just offers an eternal opportunity.

Who left the Temple right with God?  Jesus tells us the sinner went home vindicated and absolved, but the Pharisee did not.  These are troubled times.  It seems like this nation is divided on so many political issues.  We’ve adopted the prayer of the Pharisee.  “O God, I thank You that I’m not like them.”  Our October prayer must become, “Thank You, God for creating me and all humanity in Your image.  Thank You for making me like all of Your people because it makes me closer to Your Son, Jesus Christ.  God have mercy on all of Your people.”

Pope Francis recently gave an interview to a reporter.  The reporter asked our pope to describe himself.  Pope Francis began, “I am a sinner.”   We all have the need for God’s mercy – even our Holy Father Pope Francis.

There is no liturgy on Wednesday, October 30.  The third grade saints will host the All Saints Mass at 9:30 on Friday, November 1.  Archbishop Sample will make his first visit to All Saints for this celebration.

Please come and pray with us.