Who is self-righteous and proud?

The WORD in Other Words by Fr Dante Barril SVD (Rome) 30th Sunday Ordinary Time, Lk 18:9-14

I get to accompany our “big boss,” the provincial superior, in most of the   congregation ‘s big events. And it amuses me that my name gets to be written close to   his in tarpaulins or announcements, to receive the perfunctory warm round of applause   before him and be given the second best seat during meals. Indeed, sticking close to   the “boss” gives you that “boss-y” feeling.   

Today‘s Gospel states that Jesus‘ listeners were those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. Who were they? Clearly, Jesus was not   addressing the Pharisees as one of them was made a villain in his parable. It would have been foolhardy to do that. Besides, it is the nature of parables to be backhanded.   

The story prior to today‘s gospel categorically says that Jesus was addressing his disciples. The gospel immediately following it has the same disciples acting like some grim bodyguards rebuking people for bringing their children to Jesus. Thus, it is safe to say that the people referred to as those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else were the disciples themselves.   

This is utterly surprising as we are used to thinking of the disciples as the good guys compared to the regularly bamboozled Scribes and Pharisees in Jesus‘ speeches.   Perhaps, the “boss-y” feeling is getting the better of them as they have been with “The Boss” for some time now (my experience with my boss makes me an expert on this).   W hat is troubling is the fact that immediately after this lesson on humility they would display sheer arrogance by preventing people from bringing their children to Jesus.   Small wonder that (especially in the Gospel According to Mark) Jesus would time and time again ask them: Do you still not understand?   

This is the gospel today, which on the surface is kind of bad. And it‘s weird because “Gospel” is supposedly good news! However, upon closer inspection, It is the sort of “bad” that is really ultimately good. The disciples were not angels and were no different from the scribes and Pharisees and even from you and me. They were self-righteous and proud too. For this reason, no one, not even the disciples can claim to be fit and worthy of Grace for it is fully dependent upon God‘s generosity. Grace on us looks like an oversized “Americana” our mama bought in the “ukay—ukay” which we were forced to wear for the prom. It‘s just too big, too long…too much. Thanks be to God!

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