Gospel Reflections

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 18:9-14

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Jo Ann Recker

Published: October 23, 2016

The nursing student headed toward her classroom building with a spring in her step on that crisp fall morning under a beautiful October sky. She was feeling particularly enthusiastic as she had been able, last semester, to maintain a 4-point Grade Point Average and fully expected to sustain this record of achievement. After all, hadn’t the current semester already proved that she had a good grasp of the subjects being studied? Consequently, she was not a bit nervous when her professor surprised the class with an unannounced quiz. She answered the questions with confidence until she came to the final one: “What is the first name of the woman whom you frequently see cleaning our building?” The student certainly knew the woman’s face but, try as she might, was not able to name her; indeed, she realized that she had never asked nor addressed her directly. When she later consulted her instructor regarding the fairness of the question, the reply was: “You are preparing for a caring profession, one that requires your attentiveness to and concern for individuals of all types, from all classes of society, of varied ethnic and religious backgrounds. This question was meant to be a wake-call to this reality.”  The student had to agree.

And we, followers of Jesus, a man who reached out to sinners of all stripes, from tax collectors, to Jewish religious leaders, from gentiles to prostitutes.  Are we called to do any less? Like our God who makes no comparisons and loves unconditionally, we are challenged in the book of Sirach to “know no favorites,” to “hear the cry of the oppressed… the orphan… and the widow,” to petition heaven on their behalf. Some of us can meet some of their needs through direct encounter by means of our work, by serving in soup kitchens and the like; others, by advocating on their behalf in the political arena, by petitioning our congresspersons and state representatives. All of us can recognize in a variety of ways those around us whose burdens might be lightened by a simple greeting and a smile, letting them know that they do matter, at least, to someone.   

In today’s Gospel parable, Jesus sets before us a contrast between two groups – those who put themselves first with a self-inflated sense of superiority and those who humble themselves before God and, we can therefore assume, before others. The Pharisees were adept at making comparisons, thereby asserting their superiority. Was this not just what the nursing instructor was trying to impart, that no one should be filled with such self-importance as to be blind and unresponsive to the needs of even the smallest among us?    

It may seem as though we are surrounded by the brokenhearted these days: so many migrants who need shelter, so many women and children in poverty or being trafficked, so many attacks by terrorists, so much war and ….  The list seems endless tempting us to feel overwhelmed, unable to face the challenge. Whenever this seems to be the case, let’s remember the words of the Dalai Lama: “If you think you are too small to make a difference try sleeping with a mosquito!”

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