Bible Meditation: Thank God

Sunday October 23, 2022, four texts will be read.
First reading Book of Ben Sirac the wise (Si 35, 15b-17.20-22a).
Psalm 33.
Second Reading Second Letter to Timothy (2 Tim 4, 6-8.16-18).
The Gospel according to Saint Luke (Lk 18, 9-14).

Luke 18, 9-14
During that time,
to some who were convinced to be righteous
and who despised others,
Jesus told the following parable:
“Two men went up to the Temple to pray.
One was a Pharisee,
and the other, a publican (i.e. a tax collector).
The Pharisee stood and prayed within himself:
“My God, I thank you
because I’m not like other men
– they are thieves, unjust, adulterers –,
or like this publican.
I fast twice a week
and I pay a tenth of everything I earn.”
The publican stood at a distance
and didn’t even dare to look up at the sky;
but he beat his chest, saying:
“My God, show yourself favorable to the sinner that I am!”
I tell you:
when he returned to his house,
it was he who had become a just man,
rather than the other.
Whoever rises will be humbled;
who lowers will be raised. »

This passage, well known and unique to Luc, annoys me a little at first. It is not in the habit of Jesus to give moral lessons, to point out without nuance and discussion the good ones and the bad ones, without even leaving us at the end with a question. Everything seems settled. The Pharisee has it all wrong, when he is only fulfilling his duty as a Pharisee by observing the Law and coming to pray in the Temple as each of them did three times a year.

The tax collector, on the other hand, is doing incredibly well while his activity – although widely recognized – is more than dubious: he is a traitor to the nation by serving the occupier, but still a traitor to Jewish law by not respecting the forbidden food because of his association with pagans for his profession. On top of that, by handling money bearing the image of the emperor, he further violates the Mosaic Law. Finally, and this is not nothing, he is rich in wealth taken from his people in the service of the occupier. So yes, it annoys me that everything is bent like this.

And the others then?

I am looking for another avenue of reading: perhaps it is to understand that we are neither this caricature of a self-sufficient and self-justified Pharisee, nor this publican so ashamed of his sin that he cannot even look up. Another path then emerges: some among us sometimes believe that we are favored by God, perhaps each one at his time. They enjoy the advantages of existence as if they were offered to them by God himself. Health, intelligence, success, theirs or those of their loved ones, power…

In the end, we are indeed on the side of the Pharisee, thanking God for having been able to benefit from this or that chance in life or to have escaped a misfortune. “Thank God”, we say then. Isn’t it normal to thank your Creator? But a little music slips in: “And the others then? »

The publican is very infrequent – ​​except perhaps to hope to take advantage of his wealth, even ill-gotten… But what touches us is that he hopes. He hopes not to be totally banished from God by his practices, even though he feels he has no right of citizenship in the Temple. He has no place there. One is in place, the other is not. But is it so sure? And if the real place was the one that we build for ourselves step by step, not assigned in advance, that of our heart or our soul too.

Find his place

So the reading of this parable changes: the good place of the publican, that which justifies him for God, is simply on the side of hope. Because he confusedly believes, even with downcast eyes, that he can come to a place that religiously is not his, because he sneaks around and stands there, even at the very back of the Temple, but still inside , he is in his place, in the right place, the one where his God takes him in.

On the one hand, a world of certainties, sure of itself, of its rights. Behind closed doors. What would the Pharisee need? May he make a small crack in his confidence to call for help from this God to whom he gives thanks. To need another. And, who knows, others. Question for ourselves, to believe in the freedom of the Spirit in us as for everyone. Crack our world of overflow to make room, and find ours…

The toll collector finds himself justified, saved, without doing anything, simply because he asked for it. May his God have mercy on him. And he does. Firstfruits of our friend Zacchaeus, another tax collector who welcomes salvation – definitely! – in his house and decides to return four times what he stole from the poor. He too found his place, welcoming this unexpected God. ” Thanks to God… “

Veronique Marron is provincial prioress of the Dominicans of the Presentation and president of the Conference of Religious of France. She teaches at the Faculty of Theology of Angers. She has notably published the failure crossed (DDB), Fidelity-infidelity. lively question (Deer) and A moment of truth (Albin Michel).

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Bible Meditation: Thank God

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