10.23.2022 Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Pride from Seven Deadly Sins
Nicolas Caesar, a contemporary, was born in Santa Clara, California. His father painted houses, his mother was a nurse, and his sister teaches geology.
He was a quiet, shy child who spend a lot of his youth indoors due to his Asthma. There he developed his world of monsters fueled by horror comics, monster toys and KTVU's Creature Features with Bob Wilkins.
He is a self-taught artist and Founder of the Scary Art Collective, his artwork brings forth a whimsical creepy landscape populated by beings both sinister and sardonic.
He debuted his paintings at The Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco. From there to Sacramento then Burbank, New York, Norway, and even one mounted on a tank in Afghanistan. Outside of galleries, his art has been shown on the walls of Adult Boutiques, Comic Shops, Wine Bars, Garage Sales, Movie Theaters, Taquerias, Banks, Bars, sidewalks, Barber Shops, Tattoo Studios, Comic Book Conventions, Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors, Magic Dinner Theaters, you get it.
In 2009 he was a regular artist at Kaleid Gallery's Two Buck Tuesdays where he fraternized with other artists and gave lectures.
In 2010 he created his Web Comic ‘Mosquito and Spider’ that he developed into a TV show in post-production.
In 2013 he was doing Doodles on Demand with DJ Cutz on Demand Thursday Nights at The Layover Bar in Oakland.
In 2016 most people know him from his thousands of illustrations for The Phone Losers of America and Prank Call Nation. Or maybe even a few appearances on KOFY's Creepy Kofy Movie Time.
Nicolas Caesar now lives in the East Bay with his wife Sarah and their dogs Chicken and Peanut.
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
“Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get’. But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you; this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted”.
Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
Looking back at the Gospels in the past few weeks. It is evident that Jesus is using Parables to illustrate approaches and elements important to prayer: Notably faith, thankfulness and perseverance. Throughout the Gospel of Luke we see a theme of who is righteous, unrighteous and self-righteous. Luke does not link righteousness to faith, the law or the cross; he links it to self-confident boasting of one’s good deeds. In this Gospel reading, judgement, pride, arrogance, condescension and self-congratulatory aspects appear in the prayers of the Pharisee, in contrast to humility and mortification, in the prayer of the Tax Collector.
The first reading this Sunday is from Ecclesiasticus. It states that the Lord is a judge who does not respect personages to the detriment of the poor man. God listens to the plea of the injured party. This Scripture is fulfilled by Christ in his message through this Parable. The Psalm echoes with the response: “This poor man called; the Lord heard him”.
It is interesting that in the Second Reading of Saint Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, it appears at first glance as if he is congratulating himself on his outstanding faith: “I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me”. However, unlike the Pharisee in the Gospel, Saint Paul goes on to acknowledge the Lord as the Righteous Judge. The Lord will treat all the same. He speaks of the Lord supporting him when no person spoke in his defence and that the Lord will rescue him from the “lion’s mouth”. This is a humble admission of his reliance on the Lord, even when he has “fought the good fight”.
In the past, when I heard this Gospel, I accepted that the Pharisee was a bad example of how to pray, and the Tax Collector a good one. There is so much more to understand, for example that in drawing this conclusion, I am judging, and as the First Reading tells us, God alone is Judge.
The phrase “walk a mile in his moccasins” is wrongly attributed to Native American Tribes. It is from a poem by Mary T. Lathrap written in 1895 and originally entitled “Judge Softly”. It reminds me to try and understand the life of the person before passing comment or judgement.
“Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.”
Considering the two characters in this Gospel
The Pharisees are always the “baddie”. They are portrayed as rich, pompous, full of their own importance and condescending, and Jesus usually holds them up as an example of how not to behave if you want to enter the Kingdom of God. In this Parable the prayer of the Pharisee demonstrates three loathsome attributes: self-righteousness; judging; and full of pride.
When the Pharisee prays, William Barclay asks: “Is he praying to God or talking to himself? He thanks God for the virtues he assumes he has been endowed with by God, taking no responsibility for developing these himself. He was really “giving himself a testimonial before God” 8. If he took a humbler approach maybe he might instead have had a conversation with God pointing out his struggles with avoiding sin.
Sometimes, when we think of a sin or vice, we pigeonhole it to its common definition and forget it may have several manifestations. For example, as Jesus tells us, adultery can be committed in the heart. Maybe an examination of conscience might have tempered his triumphant self-assessment and praise.
What motivates him to judge this tax collector who is clearly demonstrating a humble and contrite demeanour to be in the same category as “extortioners, unjust and adulterers?” He was stereotyping the man if, he knew he was a tax collector. It demonstrates an arrogance and condescension.
He continues his prayer by pointing out his virtues, just in case God had missed them: “I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get’. Whilst the giving of tithes was required, he over does it (not just what was require but “giving tithes of all that he gets”), again raising himself above others. He is so full of pride in himself. His generosity is born out of desire to be better than his peers. Generosity is viewed as a virtue, but God looks at the motivation behind giving. If it is done for effect, or to impress or for vanity, then the good is taken out of it and it becomes a vice.
In his sermon “Judgement to Compassion” Dr. Philip McLarty, asks us to have some compassion for the pompous Pharisee. First, he reminds us that in judging him at all is to be on a level with him. Pharisees make good elders, stewards or deacons. They work hard to provide financial support to the Temple; they are devoted to God may be their biggest fault is that they try too hard in their striving to please God.
We are all familiar with the concept of trying to please someone so much it is all consuming. As a child, we might have strived to get a good report at the end of term, or we might have done more chores at home to please our parents. As a youth, we might practice a skill in sports or music to perform outstandingly. As an adult, we might work extra hours on a work assignment to please the boss. In moderation, motivating ourselves to achieve, to make full use of our God given talents is positive and healthy. If, however it becomes an obsession, it hurts not only others we might step on who get in our way, it hurts us too as our desire to please and be acknowledged for that effort may be more than others are prepared to give leaving us feeling dejected and burnt out, particularly if our effort goes unappreciated.
To try beyond the reasonable is a sort of arrogance and the driver behind the superior attitude may have its roots in an inferiority complex, a root cause of bullying behaviour, except the one here being bullied is ourselves. Such a person is more to be pitied than condemned.
We are reminded in Proverbs “Do not praise yourself for tomorrow’s success: you never know what a day may bring forth. Let praise come from a stranger not from yourself, from the lips of an outsider and not from your own”. Or put another way “self-praise is no praise”.
The Tax Collector
These people were despised in society of the time, they were regarded as little more than white collar thieves. They were, along with prostitutes and murderers among the most hated and despised member of the Jewish race. They were not welcomed in the Synagogue where the devout went to pray three times a day. Their money was not accepted by other Jews, because they made it out of additional levies they added to extensive and extortionate taxes. Their word was not admissible in a Jewish Court of Law. The position of a tax collector was neither elected nor appointed; it was sold at public auction to the highest bidder. They were outcasts which underlies the significance of next week’s Gospel in which Jesus calls the Tax Collector, Zacchaeus out of the tree and tells him he will visit his house to for hospitality.
In light of this description, it is quite remarkable the Tax Collector was in the Synagogue praying. Jesus recounts him “standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’”, clearly illustrating his shame, his humility in prayer and his petition to be shown mercy. It does not of course say what the Tax Collector did next, we do not know if he changed permanently to be a better person, but what we do know is that because of his contrite and humble prayer he was more reconciled with God than the Pharisee. However, we do not know if the next time he prayed he maintained his humility, we do not know if he changed his behaviour to be more honest and fairer or if he returned to extortion.
My initial reaction to this Parable was to applaud the Tax Collector as a model for prayer and to condemn the Pharisee as pompous, arrogant and no friend of God. I identified with the Tax Collector and looked forward to being exalted for my humility! Such arrogance. A proud mind cannot pray. It is also evident from this Parable that a person who despises another is also cut off from God while in prayer, as God sees us all as equals, no person above another.
While imagining myself “walking in their Moccasins”, I have come to see both of them with from a wider perspective of their behaviour. As well as accepting that the humble and contrite prayer of the Tax Collector is a good way to approach prayer, I should not be complacent that I am overly humble to the point of arrogance or that prayer alone will please God. That a change of heart and turning to more prayerful behaviour is required of me, too.
Considering the Pharisee, I will now try to look at people with superior attitudes with more compassion, because maybe they are driving themselves too hard to be perfect and God does not need the perfect; God just needs contrition, perseverance in the cause of righteousness, self-forgiveness and to return his love.
“Thank you God, you take the wider perspective, when you listen to our prayers".
What also comes through in this Gospel is the forgiveness of God, that it is immediate and precious. We can pour out our humble admission of sinfulness confident that if we are truly sorry the Lord has forgiven us, the burden of guilt is lifted, and we are exalted.
The Prayer of Thomas Merton
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
The Perfect Prayer
Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be Done
On Earth as it is in Heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from all that is evil.
Do I have honest conversations with God, or do I talk at Him, reciting prayers in place of dialogue and listening?
Do I spend time daily, weekly monthly or never in examination of conscience?
When I fall victim to the vice of judging another, do I ever think to contemplate their situation as if I was in their shoes?
Have I ever tried too hard for the wrong reasons, self-aggrandisement?
Will I try to stop judging others and try to see them as Christ does, to love them and to show that love, even if there is behaviour I do not like?
 Luke 5:32: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”.  Ecclesiasticus 35: 12-14, 16-19  Psalm 32: 2-3, 17-19, 23. Response v.7  2 Timothy 4: 7-8  2 Timothy 4: 16 -18  2 Timothy 4: 6-7  Lathrap, Mary T., “Walk a Mile in his Moccasins”, 1895.  “I thank you God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here”.  BARCLAY, William, “The Daily Study Bible Gospel of Luke”, St. Andrew Press, 1975, Edinburgh. Matthew 5: 28: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. McLARTY, Philip W., “Judgement to Compassion”, iStock_27034545_LARGE.jpg. Family-Sunday -Sermon -Writer. JpgChurch-interior jpg  Proverbs 27: 1-2  Luke 19: 1-10  Luke 19: 13