St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church - Naperville, IL

Fr. Peter’s Homily — October 23, 2022

Homily- Cycle II, wk 30, Sun, Lk 18 9-14, Pharisee and Tax Collector

Something doesn’t sound right in the Gospel reading this morning

The Pharisee fasted twice a week not just Fridays in Lent. Two days every week of the whole year he fasted

He paid tithes on his whole income – gave 10% to the Church! The Finance committee would probably want to get his name!

He didn’t tell a lie or commit adultery. In fact he followed all 613 commandments in the Old Testament. – Wow he could be a Catechist!

However, Jesus said this person’s sins were not forgiven

he was not made righteous before God

and so, not on his way to heaven!

What’s wrong?


The Bible often portrays things in two ways

You are either more like one or the other

In this passage you either think you are pretty good / or you realize you are a sinner and need a savior

There is no middle ground. Jesus is saying everyone is more like one or the other.

I used to think there were three ways. The way of the Saints like Mother Teresa, the way of very evil people like Vladimir Putin and then a broad middle way. But Jesus in this gospel and in many other parts of the Bible, God makes clear there are only two ways. Following God’s way or not.

So which person do I most identify with? Doing pretty good or sinful and in need of a savior.


I will tell you who I identified with!

Before I had my spiritual awakening 32 years ago, I thought I was basically a good guy. Sure, I should spend more time with my family, “try to be more generous to those in need and take better care of myself,” but I was basically a good guy.

This is the first common error regarding the recognition of our own sinfulness—denial or the assumption that I’m ok.


Let’s face facts. No one is perfect. OK maybe a couple people in the front row, but the rest of you and me, we’re not perfect.

In the Gospel, the one who considered himself righteous, always doing right, – was not right in the eyes of God and his sins were not forgiven.

The other one acknowledged that he was a sinner. Said he was sorry. He said he needed saving. He needed God. And God declared him righteous and his sins were forgiven.

Jesus took on our sins and nailed them to the cross. To receive forgiveness, we need to accept we are a sinner, be sorry, and ask for forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus died for you and me!

If we could save our self, then Jesus died for nothing.

Now every morning I remind myself that I am just a cracked clay pot, that I am a sinner.

In a couple minutes we will represent Jesus’ sacrifice, giving up his life for us, the body and blood of Jesus presented under the appearance of bread and wine.

So how did the Pharisee end up in a bad place – And how do we avoid the same fate!

First, The Pharisee was full of pride vs humility. At the end of our gospel today Jesus says

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

I don’t use the word exalt or humble very much so I looked them up on Google and translated into everyday English. Whoever promotes himself will be lowered in importance and the one who lowers himself in importance will be promoted. In another part of the Bible it says Pride goes before a fall.

He was full of pride because he compared himself to broken humanity and was completely unaware of his own faults. He compared himself to other people vs comparing himself to God. He had his eye on the wrong person. He looked down on other people!

I once did a comparison of God vs me. To put myself in perspective. Here is just a couple.

wisdom vs ignorance

power vs weakness

love vs selfish

love vs use

merciful vs judgmental

Second, He thought he wasn’t sinning

Before I had my spiritual awakening, I thought if I gave God an hour on Sunday and didn’t rob a bank or kill anybody I was on my way to heaven. This is not true.

Jesus said, “you have heard it was said, “’you shall not kill,’” but I say whoever is angry with his brother is liable to judgment and whoever says “you fool” is liable to hell. The idea is that anger is the motive behind murder and so anger is sinful.

 In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew Chapters 5-7, Jesus outlines the higher calling we are all called to. Some other examples, we steal when we deny help to the needy when able to help. Do not commit adultery includes watching pornography. Other sins are gossip, a widespread sin is saying OMG.

Speaking of sinning, the closer we are to God the less worthy we feel – God is so awesome and so perfect. As I’ve said before we are all called to become like Jesus Since Jesus came to show us the way to heaven And I have had very few people come up to me and confuse me with Jesus Christ. And so I still have a lot of work to do.

Pope St John Paul II – went to Reconciliation, Confession once a week! And he is a Saint.

When Pope Francis was elected, he was asked at the news conference, who is he? He said “I am a sinner.”

If we realize we’re a sinner, then we can seek and receive mercy and forgiveness and then can show mercy and compassion to others.

Third, and most important he focused just on the rules and forgot something even more important – Love.  Love of God, love of neighbor.

All we do – fasting, giving alms, and prayer – has value based on how we love God and love our neighbor.

Good works should be an overflow of love not just out of rule keeping.

The entire point of religion is to make us humble before God and to open us to the path of love. Everything else, I repeat everything else is more or less a footnote. Liturgy, prayer, the precepts of the Church, the Commandments, sacraments, sacramentals—all of it—are finally meant to conform us to the way of love. When they instead turn us away from that path, they have been undermined. (Bishop Barron)

So, what is the benefit of taking the attitude of the tax collector:

Our sins are forgiven, we are made right in the eyes of God. We recognize we are not alone, it’s not all on our own shoulders! And so, we can be at peace, resting in God, carried and cared for by God

The result is we will have a healthy relationship with God and with our fellow man and woman. God wants a relationship with us and so do most people.

And most important we get to go to heaven!

I recognize this is not easy. And Jesus wants all of us to recognize this is not easy. I struggle with weaknesses and favorite sins too. God wants us to recognize we all need a savior. He wants us to be humble.

Although we may get temporary happiness following the deceiver. Long term we will be most happy in this life and supremely happy in the next life if we follow God’s way vs our own way or the world’s way. I know I have tried it both ways.

And remember a saint is only a sinner who gets back up.

God bless you all!