Facing the Almighty

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C): October 27, 2013

A 6th century BC book entitled the Art of War, written by Sun Tzu, describes Chinese military strategies and tactics of his time, and gave inspirations to many world and military leaders, as well as, to business and managerial settings of our time. Sun Tzu “thought that strategy was not planning in the sense of working through an established list, but rather that it requires quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions” (http://en.wikipedia.org). Sun Tzu said: “Know your enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.”

It is wise to know ourselves as Christians and to know that the enemy, the devil, is out to destroy us, our families and our faith. He particularly wants to destroy our confidence in God, who is our only ally in our battles against evil. We know that with the devil, everybody loses; with God, everybody wins. We have heard it said, that if we give the devil an inch, he becomes the ruler. However, if we make God the ruler of our life, we will also reign with Him.

Today we are confronted with our attitude before God:

1. We face the Almighty with what we think and say we are not. We make ourselves the standard for everyone’s actions, and so we say with the proud Pharisee: O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector” (Lk 18:11). It is like saying to the world that we are not like our neighbor who is a drug user but we’re addicted to alcohol; or we are not like our neighbor in Syria or Afghanistan who likes to wage war, but we can’t control our temper; or we are not like our neighbor next street who aborted her child but we do not participate in campaigns against abortion, extra-marital relations and materialism; or we are not like our neighbor in the other side of town who steals or earns money illegally, but we are not honest with our work hours; and the litany goes on. So, we proudly become the model of goodness; we are greedy of worldly things, dishonest in facing our limitations, and selfishly taking pleasure in ourselves rather in the love of God who loved us first.

Now Jesus proclaims: Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned…. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you” (Lk 6:37-38). In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul exhorts us: “Bear one another’s burdens…. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself. Each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason to boast with regard to himself alone, and not with regard to someone else; for each will bear his own load…. a person will reap only what he sows (Gal 6:2-7).

2. We face the Almighty with what we think and say we are and with what we do as merit. We present ourselves to Him as if we do things of our own power and competence. So, we pray with the preposterous Pharisee: “I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income” (Lk 18:12). We proclaim to the world that we go hungry, but for a show, not on account of our solidarity with the poor and the suffering, and without consideration that fasting has to be joined with the suffering of Christ. We boast of being generous, despite the fact that tithing is an obligation to God and to the Church for the sake of the needy and those without influence in society. In our conceitedness, we show to people that we are righteous, for we can do what we really should be doing. Do we do something more than what we are supposed to do? For this, Jesus says: “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do” (Lk 17:10). St. Paul urges us: “Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another” (Gal 5:26). St. Peter also proclaims: As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace…. so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever (1Pt 4:10-11).

3. We can face the Almighty with how He sees us and with what we really are: sinners. There is no room for comparison between us and Him and between us and others. Our prayers or acts of celebration of God’s presence can be effective only with a believing, humble and obedient heart. To believe is not simply a mental act, but along with the assent of the mind is a personal decision to act on what a person has taken upon himself. To believe in Jesus is to live according to His standards and to obey His commands. Thus, our prayer will bear fruit not because of our competence, but because of God’s mercy and love. Our religion is not a matter of having to say many things, but making time to listen to the Spirit of God and acting upon His movements in us.

So, we celebrate the Eucharist in the Spirit of what our Mother Mary tells us: Do whatever He tells you (Jn 2:5). Let us fervently receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, so that we can be like Him in all ways, and proclaim to one another: For the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory are Yours now and forever. Amen.

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