Engaging the Gospel – Luke 18:9-14

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C): Gospel – Luke 18:9-14

Jesus’ parable of the self-righteous Pharisee, contrasted with the contrite tax collector, prompts us to consider our own hearts: do we recognize our need for God’s mercy, or do we think we’re doing well just because we fulfill religious obligations? Do we tend to rationalize, and overlook, our faults?

As St John Paul II explained,

The tax collector might possibly have had some justification for the sins he committed, such as to diminish his responsibility. But his prayer does not dwell on such justifications, but rather on his own unworthiness before God’s infinite holiness: ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ The Pharisee, on the other hand, is self-justified, finding some excuse for each of his failings. Here we encounter two different attitudes of the moral conscience of man in every age.

The tax collector represents a ‘repentant’ conscience, fully aware of the frailty of its own nature and seeing in its own failings, whatever their subjective justifications, a confirmation of its need for redemption.

The Pharisee represents a ‘self-satisfied’ conscience, under the illusion that it is able to observe the law without the help of grace and convinced that it does not need mercy.

All people must take great care not to allow themselves to be tainted by the attitude of the Pharisee, which would seek to eliminate awareness of one’s own limits and of one’s own sin. In our own day this attitude is expressed particularly in the attempt to adapt the moral norm to one’s own capacities and personal interests, and even in the rejection of the very idea of a norm.

Accepting, on the other hand, the ‘disproportion’ between the law and human ability (that is, the capacity of the moral forces of man left to himself) kindles the desire for grace and prepares one to receive it.

Veritatis Splendor, 104-05

Question for reflection: What “blind spots” do I have regarding my own faults?

Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 5:17-37

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time — Gospel: Matthew 5:17-37

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus fulfills the Law by intensifying its moral standards.

He “insists on conversion of heart” (Catechism paragraph 2608), showing us that we are accountable not only for our actions, but for our thoughts and words as well. In this way Jesus raises the bar, so to speak, on the sin of anger (2262), on purity of thought (2336), sanctity of marriage (2382), reverence for God’s name (2153), and being truthful (2466).

“The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human truth. It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts, where man chooses between the pure and the impure” (1968).

Hence the New Law, the Law of the Gospel, “becomes the interior law of charity” (1965), teaching us what we ought to do (1966).

As St. Augustine wrote, the Sermon on the Mount is “the perfect way of the Christian life,” containing “all the precepts needed to shape one’s life” (quoted in 1966).

For this reason, the Sermon on the Mount is one guide to an examination of conscience, especially to prepare for the sacrament of Reconciliation (1454).

Question for reflection: How carefully do I guard my thoughts and my words?