Our Scripture praised the humble tax collector’s confession of sin as against the proud self-righteousness of the Pharisee. Lets confess any refusal to humbly acknowledge our sins..
Why does God hate sin? The answer is because he loves us and knows it is bad for us; the commandments were given to the Jews as their fuller liberation from slavery in Egypt. For sin is always a rejection of God or our neighbor in selfish pride that hurts us deeply. Adam and Eve’s story is happening now. In sin we make ourselves God, abandons His paradisal way, and further world corruption. It destroys our inner happiness for this world and the next, and exiles us from paradise. Yet its root is in human freedom, the choice we have to do evil as well as good. The fall story is for all time; as with sin, suffering, death, disease, and cold entered the world against God’s will. Significantly, after the first sin came the first murder; Cain’s killing of his brother. So sin also begets violence, war and death in the world. That’s the answer to those who say sin on, do what you like and feel no guilt. That was the nazi code. Why have we laws, to curb the worst excesses of evil so that society can at least function?
But our faith wants more than a world where evil is barely kept in check. We work for a full free life in God, to counteract man’s fall and free us from slavery. For in every age, choosing godless Satanic pride, people let untold evil into their lives and the world. They reject God’s loving guidance for our good again and again, at both personal and societal level. Too often we think of sin in terms of personal sin but forget its larger threat, social structures of sin. Modern secular dictators of horrific genocide, from Stalin to Hitler to the Khmer Rouge, are examples. While closing churches and sending innocent faithful to concentration camps, they slaughtered billions. Even today, in our societies, structures of abortion, injustice, and war built into superstate ideology, do untold damage. Indeed some personal sin is blameless; for sin to be culpable it must be a free choice; imposed social structures of sin can make that difficult.
The Pharisee in our Gospel was part of a religious structure of corruption that blinded him to his sin. Full of self-righteousness, despite his ill-gotten wealth and power he says: “I’m all right, Jack”. In overweening pride he’s blind to the need to repent. Contrast that with the the humble tax-collector. He’s a sinner too but he knows it and seeks redemption. He acknowledges his fallen state and humbly seeks forgiveness from God. Jesus accepts him rather the arrogant sin-hardened Pharisee who ignores the Lord’s efforts to open his heart to repentance.
That’s the mystery of damnation, many refuse to see, choose to stay in hell. Recent scandals show that even church leaders can fall into that trap. They allowed sinful power and institutional self-preservation to blind them to the greatest evil, abuse of the innocent. This reminds us that the church, even at the highest level, is made up of sinners; and can become a structure of sin. Now its shocked back to its senses. So should we. For prideful blindness to sin, is destructive slavery for body and soul, and pride comes before a fall. “He who exalts himself will be humbled”. Its not high rank that make us God’s people, but innocent hearts. The perfect example is Mary. Self-knowledge was her light. As the Irish say, “stop giving ourself airs”. Only if we accept our limitations and sinfulness can God heal us. Godless sinful arrogance destroys the soul and makes the world a hell, but Christ is lord of love, peace, goodness, and forgiveness for our happiness in this world and forever and ever, amen. So as God’s own, humbly shunning sinful pride, let’s profess our faith.
Prayers of the faithful
And recognizing our deep need for God lets pray for what we need.
For the Holy father that God may inspire him in his work for the church and the world and keep him as a humble servant of all..
For civil leaders that they serve the people with humility, integrity and justice..
For youth that avoiding sinful pride, they may realize their need for God and his church, and serve both humbly and faithfully in the joy of the Spirit, as they promised at confirmation..
For ourselves, like the tax-collector may we recognize our areas of sinfulness and confess them humbly so as to be close to God..
For the sick that through our care they may know the love and care of God..
For the dead that their sins washed away, they may come to their heavenly home with the help of our prayers..
And we ask all these prayers humbly and contritely coming before God who is our father of loving forgiveness forever and ever, amen
When I think about repentance and humble acceptance of God into one’s life I think of Johnny Cash. At one stage in his life he reached the end of his tether, drugs reduced him to despair. He crawled into a cave in the wilderness to die. But there face to face with himself, God spoke to him. When he crawled out, he was a different man; as he said, God brought him from total darkness into glorious light. Afterward he always included Gospel songs in his concerts, and made a recording of all the Gospels. We all need to find God personally like that in repentance born of need. Lets pray to Mother Mary that God will lift us too from the pit where the evil one would keep us in darkness forever..Hail Mary