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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

The publican went home at rights with God; the Pharisee did not.

The Word This Week

A few weeks ago (22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time) we had a Gospel about humility in social life – today we hear the Lord reiterating the message, but this time in reference to our prayer lives. The two Gospels are linked by the last words today, which also appear in the other story: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” This phrase is obviously a key part of our Lord’s teaching! The sin of “self-exaltation” consists in putting others in a lower place – as the Pharisee does to the tax collector. Perhaps the most telling phrase in today’s Gospel is where Jesus refers to the Pharisee saying “this prayer to himself,” rather than offering it to God! And since the Pharisee wasn’t talking to God, how could he expect to be heard?

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14.16-19

Who are we more likely to listen to: a well-dressed, confident person, or a shabby, rather dodgy-looking individual? Where we sometimes will judge by outward appearances, and listen accordingly, the Lord, as this reading tells us clearly, takes not notice of such things, but only sees what we say in our hearts. Society, then as now, frequently pays more attention to the appearance than the message – widows, orphans and the poor are mentioned because they were most often the “overlooked” in society. You will need to read this firmly and deliberately: make sure that people have settled down after the opening prayer – that you have full attention – before you open your mouth, since the first line is the most important, and if people miss it, they may find the rest of the reading hard to follow. The last two lines return to the beginning – a confident proclamation of God’s attention to those whom society often ignores.


2 Timothy 4:6-8.16-18

Paul is coming to the end of his letter – and his life – and so the tone becomes more personal and reflective. You will have to reflect this in the way you read, but make sure you read all the way to the end! Looking at the first line, one could get the impression that Paul is rather downcast. But when you read the rest you see that his spirit is not in any way subdued! He is completely confident in his mission, in God’s presence and power, and in the “crown of righteousness” which is awaiting him. So while this might be a reflective reading, it is bursting with optimism and hope. This might sound obvious, but make sure you emphasise that this is a “…reading from the second letter of Saint Paul…” at the beginning: we sometime skip over the title of readings, but since this is such a personal reflection from this saint whom we read so often, make sure that you emphasise his name today.


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