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Words to Live by

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted
Sirach 35:12-14,16-18; Psalm 34:2-3,17-19,23; II Timothy 4:6-8,16-18; Luke 18:9-14

Sermon Week Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C

Scripture Summary Luke 18:14

A recent seminary graduate with an advanced degree in sociology was called on to deliver a speech to a group of seniors in a retirement community. For what seemed like an eternity to some in the audience, the young man lectured the seniors on "The Art of Living." When the talk was over, an eighty-eight-year-old man waited until everyone was gone but the twenty-five-year-old speaker. The senior then congratulated the lecturer for delivering a speech with such confidence and conviction. "Your style and presentation were very polished for a young man your age," he said. "I applaud you for the effort. But I must tell you something that you'll realize as you get older: You don't know what you're talking about."

In today's Gospel Lesson, Jesus tells the story of two men, one of whom is in the act of praising himself. And since he is in the Temple, he finds it convenient to tell God that he knows what he's talking about. "I am not like other men," he tells God. "I am not an extortioner. I am not unjust. I am not an adulterer. I am not like that sinner standing over there. I give my fair share to the Temple. And I am obedient to all the religious laws." He sounds almost like he's asking God, "Now, do you see what I'm talking about?"

The second man in Jesus' story is also in the Temple. He bows his head and, unlike the first man, does not presume to let God know the facts of his life or anyone else's. Instead, he offers a simple prayer to acknowledge that God already knows all. "God," he prays, "be merciful to me a sinner" (Lk. 18:13).

Jesus' own commentary on the story is short and unmistakably clear. The first man -- the man who presented God with a resume of his virtues -- compared himself favorably to the second man, who acknowledged his own sinfulness. Jesus reverses that judgment. The self-accused sinner, Jesus says, "went down to his house justified rather than the other." Then this little postscript: "For every [...]

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