Gospel Reflections

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Luke 18:9-14

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister JoAnn Recker

Published: October 27, 2019

 “Comparisons are odious,” said the directress of postulants during the time of our formation.  I may have forgotten many other important teachings from this period of my life, but these words have remained with me through the years.

What is it about comparing ourselves to others that make this tendency so damaging?  Is not someone always placed higher on a scale or ladder while the other is assigned a lesser position?  Is this not in direct opposition to embracing others as equals and as beloved by God?   One sure way of disrupting even potential relationships is to make comparisons in word and/or thought.  

In Sunday’s Gospel (Lk. 18:9-14), Jesus addresses this very issue.  Two people intend to engage in the same activity as they go to their temple to pray.   One, self-satisfied and smug, squanders the opportunity to enter into dialogue with his Creator and, instead, he wallows in his self-perceived superiority as he “spoke this prayer to himself”: “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity….”  Then, he proceeds to categorically judge all others as “greedy, dishonest, adulterous,” before pointing out a fellow temple-goer, one who is disdained in his culture –“a tax collector.”  His haughty prayer of “gratitude” oozes with pride.  

Meanwhile, the contrite tax-collector does not even consider himself worthy to raise his eyes heavenward as he sincerely begs God for mercy.  His is a genuine prayer and not an exercise is self-congratulation.  

Jesus provides the moral for this parable: “[W]hoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  

In today’s culture, where competition is woven into the fabric of our lives, tendencies to comparison can, almost effortlessly and imperceptibly, invade how we see, what we think and say.  While to be humble implies to see everything at its just value, neither more nor less, we remember that, being made in the image and likeness of a Trinitarian God, we are made for community, a community of love between equals.  We best image God when we love like God.  

Meekness and humility are companion virtues and to be meek is to be humble, gentle and patient, especially in the face of adversity.  Jesus described himself as “meek and humble of heart” (Mt. 11:29).   Such an attitude is synonymous with a renunciation of power, earthly glory, and control.  By being willing to let go of these, we enter more surely into life-giving relationships with others and into communion with the divine life.

As St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians 2:3-11: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men….”  

Yes, indeed, “comparisons are odious”!


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