Today’s readings are filled to overflowing with our call to be Christian.
Our personal call to change, and better yet, to be transformed through and in God’s Love, is quite clear. There is a call to care for and about the poor; to pray, knowing that our “petition reaches to the heavens”; to be consoled knowing that God “is close to the brokenhearted”; to forgive as St. Paul does for those who are absent; and to repent as did the tax collector. Listening to the whisper of God as we hear the Word today personally can be challenging. It can be comforting. It can be transforming!
Jesus spoke collectively as well to “those who were convinced of their own righteousness…” The tax collector represented a “profession” that was known at that time for cheating and probably intimidating their own people. The tax collector prays, “I am a sinner,” and in praying for mercy, intimates that tax collecting in his day and his way was unjust. The Pharisee, representing a collective group of the Jewish sect, is self-centered, self-absorbed, and among those who take a too righteous and ‘letter of the law’ stance. Enough said about some powerful groups in our society, as well. Mindsets, cultures, and worldviews were just the way it was, which, of course, makes it all the more difficult to change.
Today, what is our call as a people, as a church, as a family, as a congregation, as a country, as a world, and in politics? The Gospel message tells us to change and to be transformed. As a people, as a Corporation, as a Church, as a Congress, who and how are we hearing the cries of the poor, the immigrant, the sick and infirm? There is a wealth gap in our country where the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. There is a white privilege where racism is fueled rather than diminished. There is a violence where might is right. Truth is buried by false selves and fake news. The Gospel message calls us to be transformed which is deeper than change. It often times requires consciousness and repentance. Are there deeply ingrained beliefs, policies, mindsets which in fact, are unjust? Are there hearts that are caring until caring requires more of us than we are willing to give?
Hopefully, we are coming to grips with our fears and weaknesses and are evolving to a consciousness that too many are neglected and left out. The realization that we are called to seek out the common good has become clearer and is itself evolving to include all, even the tax collector and Pharisee. The tax collector, representative of many, may have had a “Mystical Encounter” with God, with himself and with others. Maybe he and we experience transformation and go back to life in a different way. Perhaps he and we effect change in others collectively. What happened to the Pharisee in his prayer? And what happens to us in prayer? Perhaps we are invited to a “Mystical Encounter” so that we meet our God, ourselves and others in a new way. Perhaps this encounter will bring transformation to ourselves as individuals and perhaps to our ‘tribes”, which is a term used today because bonds have cemented to resist change. Our invitation to personal and systemic change and transformation can make all the difference in the world. It can make a new world! And, like the season of Autumn which we enjoy now, it requires dying as well as rising. It is up to us, within our encounters, to make the choice.
Sister Jo-Anne Faillace, OP