Homily for the thirtieth Sunday of the year - Year C - Lk. 18:9-14
Father Daniel Meynen
"Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner! I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." "
This is a well-known parable: that of the Pharisee and the publican! Everyone can recognize himself in one of these two characters. But in which? In the Pharisee, or the publican? This is the question we ask ourselves today. If we see ourselves in the publican, then I strongly suspect that we are false publicans and, alas, true Pharisees... For it is not a question of how WE see ourselves, what WE think of ourselves, how WE justify ourselves, but rather of what we are in the eyes of God. It is, in fact, God who justifies man, and not man who justifies himself.
To have humility is to be true to oneself: humility is the truth. He who is truly humble will always see pride in himself. True humility does not realize its own state: he who has humility believes himself to have nothing, when in fact he has God, for him and in him! The man who knows himself to be a creature dependent on God humbles himself so much, putting himself in his proper place before his Creator, that God cannot leave him in this state: the Lord lifts him up to his own Glory in order to make him his adopted child. In a word, he who humbles himself, God justifies!
The more someone belittles himself before God, the more the Lord is pleased to come and live in him and to make him shine with his divine light. "God is Light," Saint John tells us (1 Jn. 1:5 - also cf. Rev. 21:23; 22:5). This is why Saint Paul said that all those in whom God lives, as in his Temple, are "light in the Lord" (Eph. 5:8): they are "children of light" (ibidem). This is a true paradox, a paradox of the Gospel, of course... One must, in fact, reduce oneself to nothing before God, believe that one owes everything to the Lord, and act on this belief, in order to take part in the greatest work there is in the world: the Work of God!
"You are the light of the world... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Mt. 5:14-16) Thanks to our humility, we can be lights of the world! Let us not reverse the order of things: we should not try to be lights of the world while keeping ourselves in humility; on the contrary, we must try to be humble in order to become, through the grace of God, lights of the world. "Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Lk. 18:14)
Today, this order of things is not often observed, alas... Pride dominates the world, and it is this which leads the world to its perdition... For humility, a virtue that is not only supernatural but also human, is not present often enough among the men of our time... When someone possesses humility, he approaches God so closely that he becomes similar to the Creator of all things: the humble man is a true man, so true that, if there had been no original sin, he would have been like the first man that God created at the dawn of the universe!
The humble man is a true man, the humble woman is a true woman. May we have such men and women to govern the world - all countries, regions, cities and towns! For these men and women would be true lights for the entire world, capable of sometimes acting in ways that are heroic and impartial, capable of doing "good works" (Mt. 5:16) for the benefit of all humanity. True and remarkable personalities, men and women who can serve as role models for their fellow citizens - this is what today's world needs so much!
In all of human history, we have never known and we shall never know a truer woman than Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Her humility was peerless and it will ever remain unequaled and unequalable. It gained for her the reception of the greatest dignity there is: that of the Mother of God! Truly, it is indeed in Mary that the following word of the Lord is perfectly realized: "He who humbles himself will be exalted." (Lk. 18:14) Truly, Mary was this strong woman, this true woman, this creature similar to God, perfectly fulfilling her humanity, not only at the foot of the Cross of Calvary, but above all in the Cenacle, with the Apostles, on the Day of Pentecost!
Today, like every Sunday, we shall receive within us Jesus-Eucharist. We shall approach the altar of the Lord. This approach testifies at once to our humility and to our grandeur. It testifies to our humility, for we humble ourselves in believing that what we see as bread is not bread but rather the Body of Christ. It testifies to our grandeur, for, in communion, we truly become the Body of Christ, adoptive sons in the only Son of God! May this approach be our justification, for the salvation of the world!