Archive for October, 2019

The Crown of Righteousness!

Sunday, October 27th, 2019

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sir 35: 12-14, 16-18; 2 Tim 4: 6-8, 16-18; Lk 18: 9-14

Deacon Larry Brockman

Righteousness!  It is one of those things we hear about often but fail to understand fully.  Just what does it mean to be righteous?  

The Hebrew roots of the word righteousness relate to the justice that God gives those people who conform to his covenant with Him.  So, the Jews of Jesus time would have understood that the righteous are those who deserve justice because they conform to the law.   

In the New Testament, Paul talks often about righteousness.  There, the word means those who live in conformity to God’s will.  They are “right” with God.  There is a subtle difference, and that is emphasized in our readings today.  

 First of all, righteousness calls for personal humility.  I am talking about true humility.  A truly humble person knows who they are.  That is what we hear from St. Paul this morning.  We hear about who he really was.  Paul was dedicated to the conversion of the Gentiles.  He was knocked off his horse, blinded by God, and told to change his ways.  He was told not to persecute the believers of Jesus Christ, but rather, to preach Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.  Paul, who was an important Rabbi in the Pharisaic Jewish Movement, dropped everything and dedicated the rest of his life to preaching Christ.  Paul knew who he was, a servant of Christ, called to do his bidding as a travelling preacher.  In today’s second reading, we find him in chains in a Roman prison at the end of his life. 

While it may seem that Paul is anything but humble about his righteousness, these circumstances and the life of Paul shed a different light.  Paul is simply recognizing who he was.  Paul knew that age and his commitment to the Lord had taken its toll.  He sensed that life in this world was almost over for him.  Paul was not comparing himself to others; just recognizing who he really was called to be.   

Then, in the Gospel we hear about a second aspect of true humility.  The parable that Jesus tells makes it very clear that we need to concentrate on our own faults rather than compare ourselves to others.  It may actually have been true that the Pharisee kept the law literally.  He may not have sinned the way he attacks others in his statement.  He probably didn’t commit adultery; he probably wasn’t dishonest; and he probably wasn’t greedy.  But that isn’t what would make him righteous.  This would have shocked the crowd; because the essence of Judaism at the time was literal compliance with the law.  

What would make him righteous is whether he responded to God’s calls to him.  Did this man hear that little voice inside his heart that prompted him in every day life?  Did he find out who God really wanted him to be, and then follow that plan?  From Jesus’ description, this man was focused on the law, and judged what others did rather than what he was called to do.  He wasn’t motivated to dig deep down in his heart and recognize his failings like the Tax Collector was.   

Sirach talks this morning about God and Old Testament Justice.  His opening statement is very important.  He says: “God knows no favorites”.  It just simply has to be that way with God.  God created each person out of love.  God loves each and every one of the people he creates the same.  Just like we love our children equally.  God has designed each of us the way he intended for us to be.  Unfortunately, not all of God’s children learn to know and serve God; just like not all of our children respond to the best efforts of their parents.   

Our relationship with God is ultimately one on one; it is not relative to others.  Only God is aware of all of the gifts and incumbrances that each person He created is dealing with.  God will justify each of us on the basis of the gifts he gave us.  God’s judgment is based on the one on one relationship we have with Him.  And in your relationship with God, He only cares about how you are responding to him, not how you are doing relative to others.  That certainly comes across in the parable in the Gospel.   

Not only that, but God is only interested in what happens going forward.  His mercy is unlimited; He forgives us for everything and anything as long as we confess, believe in him, and vow to repent. 

The good news is that all of us are called to righteousness with God.  From the beginning God sent us all out into the world to “be fruitful and multiply”.  That’s what most of us were called to do.  To go out into the world, raise our own in the image and likeness of God, and be fruitful.  That means providing for our families and using the talents and gifts God gave us.   

And at any time during our life, we can reconcile ourselves with God.  All of us are called to the personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  All of us are called to be like the Tax Collector.  The Tax Collector was one of the most hated persons in first century Jewish society. a person thought to be complicit with the Romans, inherently dishonest, greedy, and far from the law.  All of us are sinners like the Tax Collector in our own way.  But if we truly know who we are and were called to be, we recognize the things we have done wrong and are willing to change going forward, then all of us can become righteous with God.

At the end of life, if we have that personal relationship with Christ, and we maintain our true humility.  then just like Paul, all of us can expect the crown of righteousness.