My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Last week we mediated on the mystery of eternal life. The life which as the Scriptures remind us, happens here and now not after our death. Our Blessed Lord said at the Last Supper: ‘Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.’ We could read many books about Jesus Christ and still don’t know him because knowing Jesus Christ is following him and making him the most important person in our life. The Gospel for this Sunday allows us again to hear the big conversation some Jews were having with Jesus. However it also shows us a group of people who instead of talking to Jesus they started ‘arguing with one another.’ They distanced themselves from Jesus. They didn’t include Jesus. How can you know someone if you distance yourself from the person? How can you know someone if you don’t include the person?
If we don’t know Jesus we don’t know his Father either. If we don’t know Jesus we don’t know ourselves either. When we come to know Jesus we come to know our sinful condition, like Peter who, after Jesus’ command had a great catch of fish, recognised that he was in the presence of divine and said: ‘Leave me Lord; I am a sinful man.’
There is another passage in the Gospel of Luke about a Pharisee and a tax collector who came to the Temple to pray. The tax collector ‘stood some distance away’ and prayed: ‘God be merciful to me the sinner.’ The man stood away from the Pharisee who defined his condition by comparing himself to others. That’s why he thought that some people were worse sinners than him. The tax collector, the one who stood away, distanced himself from the attitude of comparing himself to others. Instead he placed himself in the presence of all holy God and thus described himself as ‘the sinner’ as if there weren’t any other sinner on the earth. He didn’t look for some other worse people to make himself feel better but he stood in the light of Truth and Love, in the light of God himself.
It reminds me of a boy who got angry and said some hurting things to his mum. When his emotions subsided he realised what he said and he was heartbroken. He could have said that some people did worse things to their parents but it didn’t matter to him. What mattered was that he wronged his own mother. It was the worst wrongdoing because it was done to the person who loved him the most.
My Dear fellow believers. One of the prayers I love is the one inspired by the man who ‘stood some distance away.’ It goes like this: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me the sinner.’ This prayer reminds me not to compare myself to others but to stand in the presence of all holly, all loving Lord Jesus Christ. It is a prayer which reminds me that my sin is directed against the person who loves me the most: my Lord and my God.
Today as we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, ask yourself where you stand. Are you standing some distance away from those who justify themselves? Are you standing some distance away from those who look for worse people to feel better themselves? Are you standing some distance away from those who compare themselves to others? Are you standing some distance from those people so that you could stand in the presence of the person who loves you the most: your God and your Lord?
That's why I am not afraid to call myself the worst sinner or the sinner.