The Pharisee from today’s Gospel fell into what we can describe as spiritual and moral mire. He saw sins of the tax collector but he wasn’t able to see his own sins. That’s why he was sinking into his own sins because he didn’t beg God for help. Without God’s help nobody can get out of sins, the tax collector went home justified because he stretched his hands asking God for mercy and help and God didn’t reject his request. The Pharisee was using his hand to point to himself as the good person and God could do nothing for him.
As I have just said it is demoniac to delight in people’s sins and it leads to blindness to the good around us.
This Sunday as we conclude the Mission Week let me let you of a missionary I admire very much, Bishop Eugene Juretzko OMI from the diocese of Yokadouma in Cameroon. He left for Cameroon in 1970 and in 1991 was appointed the first bishop of the new created diocese that is covered mainly by rainforest. He started his work from scratch with a few priests and three wooden churches. In spite of great difficulties he has established a vital and active Catholic community there. Somebody said that they’ve got now 100 seminarians. Last week I met the bishop during my visit to the Oblate Seminary of the Polish Province in Obra. The bishop was brought to Poland a couple weeks ago as he was nearly dying. At the moment he is slowly recovering, he is still very weak but when I asked him about his plans he answered straight away: “I am going back to Cameroon. No one can stop me from returning to my diocese.” However what always strikes me is his ability to see good things everywhere. So many times he was attacked. Even a few years when in Poland he was robbed at a railway station in Warsaw. But he doesn’t talk about that. On the other hand he can talk for hours about good things that happened to him, about good things he saw in other people. He told me: “TV and Newspapers take delight in talking about sins and scandals. Somebody needs to see and talk about god stuff. That’s my job as a missionary.” When I was listening to this elderly and ill bishop from the bush in Cameroon I thought about God creating the world. Each day God was seeing that it was good what he did. As we finish the Mission Week let’s be inspired by the Missionary Bishop to look at the world and people around us in order to pick up good things in them. In this way even the biggest sinners will be encouraged to repent and to change their sinful life.
Let me finish with an event from the life of St Therese of the Child Jesus who is one of two patrons of Catholic Foreign Missions. When she was little there was a case of a Pranzini who murdered three women. Everybody was shocked because of the crime. He didn’t show any sign of remorse and repentance. He was arrogant event to the priest who came to prepare him for death. Thereselater wrote: “Everything led to the belief that he would die impenitent. I wanted at all costs to keep him from falling into hell, and to succeed I employed all means imaginable, feeling that of myself I could do nothing. I offered to God all the infinite merits of Our Lord.
As Pranzini’s fate approached, Therese increased her prayers until he was brought before the guillotine on August 31. The next day, Therese read what happened in the paper and recorded how when he was about to put his head into the device, “he turned, took hold of the crucifix the priest was holding out to him, and kissed the sacred wounds three times! Then his soul went to receive the merciful sentence of him who declares that in heaven there will be more joy over one sinner who does penance than over ninety-nine who have no need of repentance!”
Therese was convinced that he was saved from eternal condemnation and she would talk of him as “her first child” whom she saved by her prayers.
Focusing on other’s sins is easy, tempting but demoniac. May today’s Gospel opens our eyes to see others through the eyes of God, like we looked at the tax collector a few minutes ago and became fond of him. Looking at our neighbors in this way we will be not only fond of them but we will come to love them profoundly. It will be love raising them to God.