THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR C
As the impeachment hearings go forward in Washington, President Trump is evidently revamping his defense team, bringing back Jane and Marty Raskin along with Jay Sekulow and White House lawyers. Understandably, the president wants the most reliable advocates he can find.
No one of us would ever want to face serious charges represented by an attorney who offers a weak or ineffective defense. We would want to hire an attorney who is an advocate in the truest sense, one who would fight for our rights, get compensation for our injuries or losses, make us whole. Yes, we would want an advocate who simply will not rest until the job is done and we are satisfied with the outcome.
In the passage from the Book of Sirach today we hear of just such an advocate. “The prayer of the lowly, the petition of one who serves God willingly, pierces the clouds and does not rest until it reaches its goal, refuses to withdraw until the Most High responds.” Quite an advocate, that! Admittedly Sirach portrays the Most High as an honest judge, but one who seems fatigued by all the cases on his docket – fatigued and close to burn-out. “You need a top-flight advocate to cut through God’s backlog and get his attention,” Sirach hints. “And this Prayer/Advocate is a real go-getter with a proven track record in the courts of heaven.”
Actually, the readings today introduce us to three men who retain the services of this Advocate with some interesting results. There is first of all the Pharisee who is rich in good works, and who has certainly served God willingly for his entire life. He has got the goods, and he sends his Prayer/Advocate up to God with no misgivings about the progress, no less the outcome of his case. He is absolutely flabbergasted when God not only rules against him, but throws his cases out of court. God goes so far as to threaten to cite the Advocate with contempt and disbar him. Jesus, like a seasoned law professor, offers in commentary the observation that the Pharisee was convinced of his own righteousness, and so prejudiced his defense. Then, too, the Pharisee spoke this prayer to himself rather than to God. No wonder that it fell back on his own head.
Next, we meet the tax collector whose case is taken on immediately, moved up on the docket, and given a favorable verdict. Jesus again suggests that attitude is the key to success. A little humility, with or without breast beating, gives the Prayer/Advocate an added brief, so to speak.
The third petitioner is St. Paul who, long before he wrote to the Thessalonians, abandoned any conviction of his own righteousness. Still, in the passage today Paul sounds drained and weary like a repeat offender in night court. No one of his friends has shown up to bail him out or even keep him company in the drab courtroom. In fact, Paul has no resources, no presumptions about using his achievements to influence the judge. All he has is the conviction that hope will not disappoint him. His Prayer/Advocate fills him with a calm assurance that the Lord Jesus stands beside him to strength him and deliver him from the threat that he faces from a human court and, in fact, from every evil.
“Increase our faith, hope and charity, and make us love what you command, so that we may merit what you promise,” we prayed at the opening of this Mass. Thus, we laid claim on the services our Prayer/Advocate. And, like Paul, we want this Advocate to obtain the conviction that the Lord Jesus stands alongside us in all of life’s moments of trial. Unlike Paul, we have not as yet run the race to its finish, but today we recognize and salute couples from our parish who are celebrating significant milestones in their journey together as husband and life. We press the Payer/Advocate to win for them blessings anew and the grace to keep the promises they made to each other years ago.
We pray, too, that their children and grandchildren will live in a world that is secure, where children no longer fear bullying or sudden gunshots in a schoolroom or bombs in the street. We pray to have the next generation finish the course of their lives and the generation after them live on a planet whose environment is healthy and still abounding in natural beauty. We beg to keep faith in a Church that has all too often in the past seemed more like the Pharisee than the tax collector.
“Almighty ever-living God, increase our faith, hope and charity, and make us love what you command, so that we may merit what you promise. Amen”