Have you received the gift of faith? Then pass it on . . .

By: By Tim Irwin

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 27

Sirach 35:12-14,16-18; Psalm 34:2-3,17-18,19,23; 2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18; Luke 18:9-14

The readings for the Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time remind us of the necessity of humility as a prerequisite for effective prayer.

The first reading from the Book of Sirach proclaims, “The one who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens.” So what does it mean to serve God willingly? It means to put a bit of a Christological twist on the Greatest Commandment. We are invited to love the Father as Jesus does with our whole heart, mind, soul, and self and others as Jesus loves them. And if we do that, will we experience blessings such as health, wealth, or perhaps knock a couple of strokes off the golf game? That doesn’t appear to have been Paul’s experience.

“I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” With only 83 verses, the Second Letter to Timothy concisely covers the Christian experience lived in expectation of the coming of the Kingdom.

Paul knows that he will pay for preaching the Gospel with his life. He has prepared Timothy to follow in his steps and he counsels him to prepare others to carry the mission forward. Paul spells out the struggle of those who serve God willingly and the blessing they may hope to experience: “From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.”

KEEPING THE FAITH
So, to love the Father and others as Jesus loves them calls each of us to be the Christ in word and deed for others. It’s not an easy task. Paul likened it to running a race, perhaps a relay race, in which we each receive the faith and then in turn pass it on. Paul notes that he kept the faith and that points us to the subject of the Gospel, the power and necessity of prayer.

Jesus said, “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former, for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The arrogance in the prayer of the Pharisee suggests that he is a person who has no inclination to love the Father and others as Jesus does. When we act like the Pharisee we overvalue the temporary and undervalue the permanent. Health and wealth are clearly good and a couple strokes off the golf game may be ecstasy, but in the last analysis it is the “crown of righteousness” that answers our desire for happiness. This Sunday’s readings ask us to see this life in the context of the Kingdom of God, recognize our sinfulness, pray, and do whatever good we can do for others.

We have received the gift of faith — the invitation to love the Father as Jesus does with our whole heart, mind, soul, and others as Jesus loves them. Let’s pass it on.

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TIM IRWIN teaches at Peoria Notre Dame High School, where he chairs the Theology Department. He is a member of St. Mark’s Parish in Peoria.

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