“Conversion of Saint Paul” (detail) by Caravaggio

“We must ask ourselves a question. Which attitude do I represent? Am I self-satisfied in how I live? Or am I honest and self-aware about my weakness and sins and committed to my humble efforts to live in faith and strive for holiness?”

The Mass readings for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) are Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; Psalms 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23; Second Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14.

Pope Saint John Paul II, opened his encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, with the proclamation that Jesus Christ is “the true light that enlightens everyone” and that each of us are “called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.”

He adds that obedience to the truth is not always easy because of Original Sin, and that “man’s capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened.”

The truth is that each of us is willed by God, made for Him. There is much more to life than what the present culture understands. We are made for greatness, not mediocrity. But too often we forget this truth and settle for less.

Certainly, we can all relate to this reality. Too often we sin. We fail to do what we ought to do (sins of omission) and we do that which we should not (sins of commission). It can be a struggle to break bad habits. We forget that by grace, through faith, we can replace those bad habits with the practice of the human moral virtues.

If I struggle with self-centeredness, I can pray to God for the grace to practice generosity. If I am prideful, then the practice of the virtue of humility can, over time, and by God’s grace, replace the bad habit of pride.

We are not in this struggle alone. Citing Paul VI, the Holy Father reminds us that Jesus “was uncompromisingly stern towards sin, but patient and rich in mercy towards sinners.”

Jesus is ready to pour out his mercy upon us. It is ours for the asking so long as we intend to “go and sin no more.”

In today’s Gospel from Luke 18, we see two examples of sinners and their relationships with the Lord.

First, is the Pharisee. Apparently, he believes that he is not a sinner. Instead, in his prayer before God, he judges himself to be a good person, not like all those sinners around him. He thinks he has earned his place in the Kingdom, that he is worthy and entitled. He does not even acknowledge that he is a sinner. Saint John Paul II remarks that this pharisee “represents a ‘self-satisfied’ conscience, under the illusion that it is able to observe the law without the help of grace and convinced that it does not need mercy.”

Then there is the Tax Collector. He knows his sinfulness. He knows he is not worthy. But he also knows that he can approach the Lord in humility and trust in God’s mercy. He makes no excuses and casts no judgment on others around him. He surrenders in trust to the Lord.

We must ask ourselves a question. Which attitude do I represent? Am I self-satisfied in how I live? Or am I honest and self-aware about my weakness and sins and committed to my humble efforts to live in faith and strive for holiness?

In today’s second reading, we read from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy. Paul is in prison and approaching the end of his earthly life.

He was under no illusion about his own failings and dependence on the Lord. That is well-documented in his writings. Upon his conversion on the Road to Damascus, he embraced what the Lord revealed to him about his sinfulness and came to new life in Christ. There was never again a moment when he did not know the necessity of grace and mercy in his life.

Now at the end of his life, he writes eloquently about having run the race to the finish. He is a model in faith for each of us. He reminds us that this life will come to an end and that eternity awaits. We are not worthy. But the good news is that God’s mercy does not disappoint and that by grace, God will bring to completion the work he has begun in each of us, provided we strive to live in that grace.

At holy Mass, we give thanksgiving for this great gift from God. And in Holy Communion, His grace and mercy are further poured out into our souls to strengthen us in our relationship with Him and one another. Bring your struggles, your joys and sufferings, your victories and defeats, and offer them together with the Lord’s offering on the Cross. Ask the Lord’s help to live according to His call.

Pray with me, “Dear Lord, remind me each day that this life is short and the life to come eternal. Help me, a sinner, to turn from sin and walk in your ways. Amen.”

Deacon Bickerstaff is available to speak at your parish or event. Be sure to check out his Speaker Page to learn more. Into the Deep is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™.

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