30th Sunday – Year C 2019
Humility in the acknowledgment of our merits! (2 Tm. 4:6; Lk. 18:2ff.)
Fr. P. Madros
When St. Paul reported on his “accomplishments” (2 Tm. 4:6ff.), he did not contradict the precepts of the Lord who had criticized the boasting of the Pharisee recounting his merits to God (Lk. 18:2). This one attributed all things to himself in disdain of the others, particularly the tax collector. Saul, himself, recognized that he was “a downcast”, “the least of the apostles” and was not worthy to be called an “apostle” because he had persecuted the Church of God”. He was conscious that it was “by the grace of God that he is what he is, and the grace of God has not been empty in him.” (cf. 1 Co. 15: 8-10).
The apostle of the nations attributed his earthly existence to grace and the apostolic ministry: As to me, I am already spread in libation (i.e. wine and water that crowns Jewish sacrifices, according to Nb. 28:7. In here it is a metaphor indicating the end of life)… and the moment of my departure came (literally “of my dissolution”, in allusion to the separation of the soul from the body, causing the decomposition of this last); I have fought the good fight, till the end”. The struggle is literally and etymologically the “agony” (αγων) in Greek. Notice! Our ex Pharisee did not perceive the חרם “herem”, the forbidden that authorized the killing of pagan men and taking their women and their children in captivity (this is what is found later on in the Koranic Jihad (جهاد) that demands to combat “with the money and with the life” in the holy war, i.e. either by exposing oneself to death or by financing the Jihadist combatants). With St. Paul it is a question of spiritual struggle, “not against the flesh and blood”, then not against men “but against principalities, against Powers, against the directors of this world of darkness” this is why we should take up the armor of God” (Ep. 6:12ff.). In fact, “for the weapons of our battles are not carnal, yet still they are powerful with God, unto the destruction of fortifications: tearing down every counsel, and height that extols itself contrary to the wisdom of God, and leading every intellect into the captivity of obedience to Christ!´(2 Co. 10: 4-5).
The Pharisee of the parable who so much resembles those in real life (!) did not spare any opportunity to praise himself. It is always an issue about him, about his dear person and his very amiable self, while the others they are always “hateful” as painted by Blaise Pascal. The merit and the merits in the plural belong to him. If he were to thank God, it is because God did not allow the degradation of his excellent and eminent person as a Pharisee to the low level of the sub human tax collectors! He, the Pharisee, willingly, in capital letters, “fasts twice a week”, Mondays and Thursdays (a practice that we find later in Islam as well).
The author of the Didache, so close to the apostles, prohibited that to Christians who should fast on Wednesday, the day of Judah’s betrayal, and Friday, the day of the Crucifixion of the Lord (Didache 8:1).
Let us acknowledge our accomplishments with humility and thanksgiving! That the contempt for others does not deprive us of our humility, our kindness and does not undermine our good sides! Let us always beware of ourselves as we recall the Pauline warning: “And so, whosoever considers himself to be standing , let him be careful not to fall” (1 Co. 10:12).
A brief word imposes itself for this Sunday about the feast of “Our Lady of Palestine”, at the sanctuary of Deir Rafat, situated between Jerusalem and Jaffa. We implore the Lord to have pity on the Holy Land who had much suffered for the last three centuries and still do! May the Church keep up its faith and hope in the love for all humanity! May it, with the grace of God, “grow in Judea, the Galilee and Samaria, built up in the fear of the Lord and filled by the consolation of the Holy Spirit” (cf. Ac. 9:31). And thus, Christ becomes once again king in his homeland, happy “as God in France”!