Where the dividing line runs

The story of the Pharisee and the tax collector is one more of those simple parables told by Jesus which has an obvious meaning - and a not so obvious one.

Here the person who feels secure in their position and way of life, ‘despises everyone else.’ It is obvious this is one more scene of division between those who have and those who do not have, between the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor – the very kind of divide Jesus came to remove.

When we draw out the story from its original stark setting, it is less obvious where the dividing line runs. Is it so clear who are the rich and who are the poor? Who live comfortable lives and who precarious ones? Augustine gives us some poignant words about what he gradually came to understand:

Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved you! For behold you were within me, and I outside; and I sought you outside and, in my ugliness, fell upon those lovely things that you have made. You were with me and I was not with you. I was kept from you by those things, yet had they not been in you, they would not have been at all …

Every person is a mixture! We are all Pharisees and tax collectors! We are conscious of how much we rely upon ‘those lovely things’. Yet we are drawn, pulled, pursued, by that inner voice that will not leave us alone. We are ‘kept from you by those things’. Our struggle is always going to be to ‘pierce the clouds’ as Ben Sira puts it. ‘You were with me and I was not with you.’ God is always ‘with us’. Our problem is that we are not with God.

‘Give us this day our daily bread!’ Our daily bread has to be our permanent attention to the inner struggle to be ‘with God’. To see things with the eyes of God, to sense the Spirit moving across our waters, our consciousness, and to courageously follow the Way. This is behind the wisdom of the ancients about ‘examining our lives’ so highlighted in Christian times and emphasised – popularized? – by Ignatius of Loyola. (i) Be grateful for all ‘those lovely things’. (ii) Expand your horizons. Review. Where is God in my day? (iii) What to do?

23 Oct 2022                Sunday 30C                Sir 35: 12-18     2 Tim 4:6-18        Lk 18: 9-14

Post published in: Faith

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