Pastoral Sharings: "What is the Pharisees’ sin?"

WeeklyMessage Father Cusick
October 27, 2013
Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Sirach 35, 12-14.16-18; Psalm 34, 2-3. 17-18.19-23; 2  
Timothy 4, 6-8.16-18; St. Luke 18, 9-14

What is the Pharisees’ sin? He attends the temple  worship as he ought, does he not? To all appearances he performs outwardly all that God demands, and in fine form. His actions are deceiving to all but God, however, for his heart is far from the Lord. He is blinded by his pride and ends by making himself God’s equal. He was “self-righteous” and he held “everyone else in contempt”. When we are unable to simply thank the Lord for our many unmerited gifts, and beg him for his mercy, seeking the grace to return His love for us, we make ourselves God’s equal. This is the sin of the Pharisee.

“The first movement of the prayer of petition is asking forgiveness, like the tax collector in the parable: ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ It is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer. A trusting humility brings us back into the light of communion between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ and with one another, so that ‘we receive from him whatever we ask.’ Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer.” (CCC 2631)

Our prayer in the Liturgy is a great offering before God and brings him glory when it is offered with a contrite and humble heart. We acknowledge our sinfulness at the start of each Mass in the “Penitential Rite” in order that we may properly humble ourselves before the thrice-holy God.

“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” (St. John Damascene, De fide orth. 3, 24:PG 94, 1089C.) But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or ‘out of the depths’ of a humble and contrite heart? (Psalm 130:1) He who humbles himself will be exalted;(Cf. Lk 18:9-14) humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that ‘we do not know how to pray as we ought,’ (Rom 8:26) are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. ‘Man is a beggar before God.’ (St. Augustine, Sermo 56, 6,9:PL 38, 381.)”(CCC 2559)

When we humble ourselves it is then, the Lord promises us, we will be exalted: “He who humbles himself will be exalted”. That our deepest longing to share in God’s glory forever in heaven may be fulfilled, we must eschew all pride and vainglory. We do this by becoming “little children”. We look to the Father in adoration, love and worship. Every offering of the Mass gives us the perfect opportunity to turn as children back to the Father, to make the prayer of the tax collector our own: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” His sincere and humble offering was worth more than all the temple sacrifices, for it was the expression of a “humble, contrite heart”.

That we may be “exalted”, “raised up” by the Lord who rose from the dead to raise us up, let us treasure every grace of contrition, and respond to every impulse to repeat the blessed prayer we learn from the tax collector, “O God be merciful to me, a sinner”.

“Penance requires . . . the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction.” (CCC 1450)

In every Mass we begin our worship by examining our consciences that we may offer an acceptable gift at the altar. We place ourselves in our true position before God, needy souls who come to him for every good. In every confession we respond with honesty to our acknowledgement of serious sin. We tell the priest all of our grave sins by species, that is what we have done, and number, how many times we have committed each sin. This, and sorrow for our sins, are all that are required and, in return, we receive the overflowing mercy of the Father in the priest’s prayer of absolution. These are the attitudes of the humble heart that are so pleasing to the Father and thus truly lead to our exaltation as blessed souls in heaven.

(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph numbers 2558 and following.)
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Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
October 27, 2013

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 18:9-14
Gospel Summary

Luke introduces the parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector with the statement that it is addressed “to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” Two men go up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee, standing in a prominent place, thanks God that he is not like the rest of humanity—or even like the tax collector he had noticed. He also reminds God that he fasts twice a week, and pays tithes on his whole income. The tax collector, standing at a distance, beats his breast and prays, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus then remarks that the tax collector who humbled himself before God went home justified, not the Pharisee who had exalted himself.

The Pharisee, the Publican, and Humility
The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (aka tax collector) teaches us a lot about pride, humility and . . . insanity.  And it even gives us insight into one of the principal battle cries of the Protestant Reformation — “sola gratia” or “grace alone.”

Each year, at one of our country’s leading Catholic universities, a professor does a survey with each incoming class of students.  He puts to them this question: “If you were to die tonight and appear at the pearly gates, what would be your entry ticket?”

30th Sunday: The Lord Hears the Cry of the Abandoned
Paul, the intense and dynamic fighter for the Lord, was left alone.  He had returned to Jerusalem to consult with the twelve original apostles.  He had gone to the Temple to pray. Then those who were fighting against this new Jewish sect now called Christians saw Paul and told the crowd that this is the man who is preaching blasphemy.  They began beating him.  Paul was rescued by the Romans.  They had to carry him over the crowd to keep him alive. Paul was then brought before Claudius Lysias, the Roman Tribune.  Ananias the high priest came to demand Paul’s death. Forty of the Jews vowed to neither eat nor drink until Paul was put to death.  And Paul was left all alone.

Greed destroys, money is God’s gift to use to help others, pope says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Money by itself isn’t a problem, but greed and an attachment to money cause evil and destroy families and relationships, Pope Francis said.

“Money is needed to bring about many good things,” he said in his morning Mass homily Oct. 21, “but when your heart is attached (to money), it destroys you.”

Sinners Are Close to theHeart of God, Pope Reflects
VATICAN CITY — In his daily Mass homily today, Pope Francis stressed that Jesus came to save sinners, emphasizing also the importance of knowing God on more than an intellectual level.

“I have come to heal, to save,” said the Pope, quoting the words of Jesus from the Gospel.

Some Hard Spiritual Truths That Will Set You Free. A Meditation on a Teaching from St. John of the Cross
I have written before on Five Hard Truths That Will Set You Free. In this post I would like to ponder Some Hard Spiritual truths that will set us free.

In calling them “hard truths,” I mean that they are not the usual cozy bromides that many seek. They speak bluntly about the more irksome and difficult realities we confront. But, if we come to accept them, they have a strange way of bringing serenity by getting us focused on the right things, instead of chasing after false dreams.

The Miracle of John Paul II
Moments after Pope John Paul II’s death on April 2, 2005, the chant “Santo subito! Santo subito!” [“Sainthood now!”] begins from the sad, but somehow exhilarated, crowd in St. Peter’s Square. Through all the events that are part of burying a pope, it continues.

Through all this, in the south of France, Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre’s struggle with Parkinson’s is not going well. For some time before his death watching him on television had gotten too hard. “I saw myself,” she would later remember, “my own future.”

Mary, My Guide to Understanding God’s Mercy
I’ve always been a sucker for quotes.  I keep a document on my computer, a folder in my Evernote, and have barely weaned myself of the scraps of paper that used to hold meaningful quotes in my purse, on my refrigerator, and in my office.

Why should St. Peter let you in
Each year, at one of our country’s leading Catholic universities, a professor does a survey with his incoming class of students.  He puts to them this question: “if you were to die tonight and appear at the pearly gates, what would be your entry ticket?

Did Mary Give the Rosary to Saint Dominic?
Did Mary give the Rosary to Saint Dominic? Catholic tradition states the Blessed Virgin Mary directly and personally instituted the Holy Rosary through Saint Dominic. A previous post described the traditional account of “How Mary Gave the Rosary to Saint Dominic.”

Order! Order! A Meditation on how the mystery of order proclaims the glory of God
One of the things that most amazes me about the universe is its order. And its order is even more striking for its context of another widespread force: disorder, the tendency of things to fall apart. Let me explain.

Meeting the Master
When discussing the problem of the Catholic Church one of the main culprits is “poor catechesis”. The lukewarmness of the laity, the misguided political correctness, the sentimentality, and bland, suburban do-gooder mentality prevalent in the pews is all blamed on “poor catechesis.”

“If only the people had been taught what the Catholic Church really teaches. Then we’d be okay!”

Don’t Ask Why
A few years ago I learned to stop asking “why” about suffering.  A Jesuit priest said simply, “It is part of the human condition.”  When he said that, it was not a revelation to me, but rather an awakening or acceptance of that truth.  I am thinking about that truth again as I watch friends suffer with serious illnesses.

Do You Know What Confirmation Is And What It Does?
First off, the best place to start exploring Confirmation is to begin by exploring what both the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are and are not.

Baptism is the first of the Sacraments of Initiation, that is, a Sacrament which cleanses our souls of the guilt (not the stain) of original sin, makes us partakers of the Divine Nature, brings us into the family of God (the Church), makes us sons and daughters of the Father & brothers and sisters of Christ, and it gives us sanctifying and actual grace. It is not complete in the sense that it doesn’t give us every grace we need to have a mature Christian faith. Rather, it is the gateway into a Christian and Sacramental life.

Four Lessons from Emmaus Road for the Anxious and Discouraged
We are all likely familiar with the “walk to Emmaus” (Luke 24:13-35) by two of Christ’s disciples the evening of the Resurrection in Luke’s Gospel.  These two men, overcome with hopelessness and discouragement, were talking about the incredible events they had witnessed over the previous few days as they were walking to their home village of Emmaus outside of Jerusalem.  As I read this Gospel passage in Eucharistic adoration yesterday, I was struck by the parallels with our modern world.  These two men were anxious, despondent, and uncertain of their future and had even begun referring to Christ in the past tense.  Considering the times we live in, don’t we sometimes act and think like these two disciples?

Five Key Features of Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body
There is much excitement today, especially among the young, about John Paul II’s “theology of the body”—the 129 catechetical addresses he gave between 1979 and 1984 that have revolutionized the way many theologians now teach about love, sexuality, and marriage.

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail
Few promises of Jesus are as scary and yet so encouraging as the one made to Peter in Matthew 16:18.

“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The first part of the promise—Peter and the rock—has been the source of much contentious commentary because it supports the Catholic teaching on the papacy.

3 Absolutely Terrifying Visions of Hell
US Supreme Court Justice Antonin says he believes in hell and the Devil and gets mocked. But Scalia’s allies are more important than his critics: aside from the majority of Americans, Jesus the Son of God, and his Vicar, Pope Francis, talk about both of those things in their teachings constantly.

Yes, hell is real, and for Catholics, it’s existence is a matter of dogma. The Council of Florence in 1439 taught: “We define…[that] the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains.”

Stages of Sin from St. Bernard of Clairvaux – Fasten Your Seatbelt!
There are just times when a saint speaks and one is stunned by the insight, the piercing analysis, like a surgeon’s scalpel dividing diseased from healthy tissue. Such is the case with a quote I read recently from St. Bernard that Ralph Martin references in his Book “The Fulfillment of all desires.”

In this quote Bernard analyzes the descent into the increasing darkness of sin experienced by those who do not turn back, who refuse to hear the call to repent. And not individuals only, but, I would argue, cultures too.

Are You Bored With the Faith?
In a freshman composition class today, my students were analyzing John Taylor Gatto’s essay, “Against School”.  Gatto, a former New York City public school teacher and writer, opens the essay by contemplating the problem of boredom, “I taught for thirty years in some of the worst schools in Manhattan, and in some of the best, and during that time I became an expert in boredom.”  Gatto goes one to explain that the students blame their boredom on the teachers.  The teachers, who are every bit as bored as the students, blame the students for the problem.

A Mass-Centered Way to Talk About the Eucharist
Traditionally, Catholics from every spectrum of the Baptized faithful have done a really good job explaining ‘what’ the Holy Eucharist is and ‘why’ we believe it to be the Real Presence of Christ Jesus.

A simple but powerful definition of prayer.
I have read many definitions of prayer. I have been especially fond of St Therese’s description.

But one of the nicest and briefest descriptions of prayer I have read comes from Dr. Ralph Martin, in his book The Fulfillment of All Desire. Dr. Martin says beautifully, in a way that is succinct and yet comprehensive and inclusive of diverse expression:

Prayer is, at root, simply paying attention to God (p. 121).

Cardinal Newman on Papal Infallibility
“It in no way depends upon the caprice of the Pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine, the object of a dogmatic definition. He is tied up and limited to the divine revelation, and to the truths which that revelation contains. He is tied up and limited by the Creeds, already in existence, and by the preceding definitions of the Church. He is tied up and limited by the divine law, and by the constitution of the Church.

Children as Commodities
The Council of the District of Columbia is considering a bill, sponsored by its most aggressively activist gay member, to legalize surrogate child-bearing in your nation’s capital. Infertility is a heart-rending problem. But solving that problem is not what’s at issue here, for the D.C. surrogacy bill is being pushed by the same people who brought “gay marriage” to the shores of the Potomac River: people who affirm what are, by definition, infertile “marriages.”


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