Sun, 9 February 2020
Homily – Publican and Pharisee
All of creation is pregnant with potential – less full of lifeless atoms or particles than of seeds just waiting to be brought forth into fruition. And here I speak not just of literal seeds (although it is almost time to start working with those and getting them ready for transfer into the garden come Spring), but of everything.
All of creation is ready to grow, made that way by its Maker, just waiting for our attention – the attention of its stewards – to bring it from possibility into realization. When sown by stewards of pure heart and understanding, these seeds will be nurtured into beauty, offering the best possible fruit, [and] manifesting the glory of God in very tangible ways. When sown by stewards of ill will, apathetic spirit, or twisted rationality, these seeds will grow into something much less savory, twisted testimonies to pride and carelessness. Think of these examples:
Perhaps these are too abstract – we are not used to thinking about relationships in these terms. Americans tend to be more practical – so let us turn to the building blocks of this society: money and time.
Let’s look at the lesson from the Creator Himself that describes this very dynamic.
Another way to think of this is that there is a seed of perfection within us all, ready to manifest itself through every moment and action of our lives. But we can pervert this possibility with our willfulness and pride.
Let's not do that; that would be bad!
Instead, let us look at every moment as an opportunity to do something good and to do something beautiful so that we and this world we are meant to care for will become good and beautiful.
The Gospel lesson today shows us that the way to bless the moment in this way begins not with memorizing the scripture or mastering the rigors of fasting or of tithing everything we have. The Pharisee did all those things in a way that closed his soul off from grace. No, we begin as the Publican: with humility.
On our own, we have nothing to offer the moment that can help it. We have nothing to share with our neighbor that can benefit them. We have nothing fitting to offer God that can match His glory. And so we offer him our humility.
And this humility becomes an opening through which the grace can flow, and as long as we keep it open – as long as we keep pride at bay and remain attentive to the actual needs of the moment - that grace will transform us and bless everyone around us. The imagery given to the prophet Isaiah will then be fulfilled: the desert places will become fruitful gardens because we will have watered them with the teats of our repentance and with the Living Water of grace that flows from the open heart of Christ and all His people.