The Word for the 30th 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
This week’s readings complete our trilogy on the theme of prayer. Instead of focusing on a particular type of prayer, we discuss how we approach God in prayer, that is, with humility. Our first reading from Sirach is an example of this where he reminds us that all our prayers are heard by God, but those coming from the most humble among us “pierce the clouds”. The book takes its name from its author, Sirach in Greek, but in the original Hebrew, would be called the Wisdom of Ben Sira (Yeshua, son of Eleazar, son of Sira). Ben Sira was not a prophet, but a sage who lived in Jerusalem in the early 2nd Century BCE with a love for the Wisdom tradition, the law, the priesthood, and divine workshop. Like most of Wisdom literature in the Bible, the Wisdom of Ben Sira is a sort of catechism used right before and during the life of Christ, but was ultimately not selected for inclusion in the Hebrew canon.
Our second reading concludes our 7 week journey through the Pauline letters to Timothy. As we know, Timothy was a protégé of Paul’s, a young priest in search of guidance, which he receives in these letters. This week’s excerpt has Paul continuing our theme of humility as he draws his second letter to Timothy toward a close. He has suffered to bring the Gospel, but has no regrets. You can hear Paul’s sadness as he acknowledges he is nearing the end of his life, but this is anything but a lament... he is proud of the work he has done, and as always, offers himself as an example to his younger charge.
We then hear from Luke’s Gospel where we pick up right where we left off last week (with the dishonest judge). In yet another story unique to Luke’s Gospel, Jesus turns from his disciples (who just heard the last parable) and faces the larger crowd (no doubt with some Pharisees among them) and gives them two examples of examples of prayer – one from a supposed holy man, and the other from a supposed sinner. But which is the holy man, and which is the sinner? Jesus gives us the answer… the one who’s prayer is honest is the one who will be saved. Honesty and Humility work hand in hand as we face the Just Judge in prayer. One other point to note from this parable: The Pharisee, in making his prayer, compared himself to the tax collector, while the tax collector, in making his prayer, made no such comparison. Humility demands that we not make such comparisons. God doesn’t grade on a curve. Instead, the Just Judge views each case on its individual merits.