(Father Shannon’s homily on Sunday, August 20, 2017)
In today’s gospel, Jesus uses words and actions to heal. We may ask why – since Jesus is God, He could have just willed it to happen. However, Jesus did this to use His human nature (although in a perfect way, unlike us) as well as for our benefit. As humans, we use our senses and God never acts against the human nature He created. If Jesus had not used actions and words to appeal to our senses, it might not have been obvious that the healing was due to Jesus’ powers.
The sacraments were also established by Jesus while taking our human nature into account. A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to bring grace. In the sacrament of baptism, the pouring of water and the words are the outward signs which accompany the sanctifying grace. Our Lord did all things well in establishing the sacraments this way – appealing to our physical bodies and spiritual souls. Each sacrament is composed of matter and form. For example, in Confirmation, the matter is the holy oil. Form is always the words spoken.
All things are done well by God – and by knowing this, Catholics may come to know the infinite wisdom of God.
And to some who trusted in themselves as just, and despised others, he spoke also this parable: Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner. I say to you, this man went down into his house justified rather than the other: because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.
Notes taken from Fr. John Shannon’s homily on August 13, 2017
Humility is the virtue in which, realizing our own nothingness, we attribute all our good works to God. Everything we have has come from God.
Publicans often were guilty of extortion and adultery. The Publican was indeed a sinner, but we see him being truly sorry for his sins. Ironically, the Pharisee is guilty of the same sins he sees in the Publican. When someone becomes puffed up with pride, he or she falls into the same type of sin which he or she judges. The Publicans hid their extortion with religious hypocrisy… the latter sin of which the Pharisee is guilty. The Pharisee is also guilty of a kind of spiritual adultery.
It is important to remember that the only comparison that matters is that to Christ, the model of virtue. It is sometimes tempting to look down upon others, especially those who do not belong to the Catholic Church (or those who we deem to be more sinful than ourselves), but we must not fall into this trap.