This is the thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The theme for this Sunday’s reading is humility. Humility must be the hallmark of our prayers and of Christian life. God hears the cry of the humble. However, the central focus of the readings, especially the Gospel reading, is not only on prayer, but also on pride, humility, and the role of God’s grace in our salvation.
The first reading, taken from the book of Sirach, is a perfect companion for the Gospel reading. It discusses the power of prayer: “the prayer of the lowly, piercing the clouds to reach the unseen throne of God.” Prayers of the humble are heard because they come from the hearts of people who know how much they need God. The reading reminds us that our just God has no favorites. Rather, He always hears and grants the humble prayers of everyone, especially the humble of heart, the widows, the orphans, the lowly, the weak and the oppressed. However, the best prayer, the reading reminds us, is humble and selfless service to God and to one another.
In the second reading, Paul celebrates the fact that he is near the finish line of his life, like a runner running a race. Paul notes that he has kept the Faith right up to this point in his life. Paul summarizes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the Faith.” Now, he humbly awaits “the crown of righteousness” that only God can give him. And, although, Paul reports his accomplishments, he humbly acknowledges the source of the success of his ministry, “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.”
In the Gospel reading, Jesus reminds us that God hears the prayers of those who approach Him in humility. A Pharisee and a tax collector went to the temple to pray. However, God did not answer the prayer of the Pharisee because the Pharisee exalted himself. His prayer was a prayer of thanksgiving that he was not as evil as the tax collector; he announced his freedom from sin and detailed his fidelity in observing the prescribed fasts and in giving tithes. The tax collector’s prayer was different, as it came from his heart: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” God heard and answered the tax collector’s prayer because he humbled himself, acknowledged his sins and requested God’s mercy and forgiveness.
The readings today challenge us to imitate the humble publican by acknowledging our total dependence on God and His grace for all our achievements and blessings. We need God and His grace. We need to be humble by confessing our sinfulness to God and by asking for His pardon and forgiveness and strength to be a better person. We need to pray for God’s continued daily support through His grace and to ask for strength through daily anointing and through His Holy Spirit living within us. Through prayer we can become more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others and serve them as best as we can. In sum, we can do nothing without God.
In the coming week we will celebrate two important events—All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. On the solemnity of All Saints Day, we celebrate the holy men and women of every time and place, canonized or beatified, who are now in heaven. Some were famous; others lived simpler lives doing God’s work on earth relatively unnoticed. On this day, we remember both those who have been publicly recognized by the Church for their heroic sanctity of life and holiness, and also those countless other brothers and sisters who have faithfully followed Christ in life and have reached the final destiny of their earthly pilgrimage, the Heavenly Jerusalem. These holy people continue to prove as models for our behavior—that is why we call them “saint companions.” On All Saints Day, we will have two Masses, at 8:00 am and 7:00 pm. The children from the Academy will process into the sanctuary at the 8:00 am Mass dressed in their favorite saint’s costume. I encourage parents to prepare a saint’s costume for your child for Halloween when they go Trick-or-Treating. This way, you don’t have to buy two different costumes. Dressing your children in a saint’s costume has another advantage as well—you and your family can evangelize as you go around the neighborhood Trick-or-Treating.
The following day, Saturday, November 2nd, is All Souls Day. On this occasion, we recall the lives of all of our faithfully departed; but most of all, we recall those who have gone before us in faith during the past year. It is a day specially set apart for us to remember and pray for our dear ones who have gone to their eternal reward and who are currently in a state of ongoing purification. Because this feast falls on a Saturday, we will have one Mass at 9:00 am in the morning. During this Mass, we will read the names of all those who have died during the preceding year. This solemn reading of names allows us to remember those who have passed and to pray for them in a special way. The parish office sent letters to all those families who lost loved ones over the past year, inviting them to the All Souls Mass. However, the Mass is open to all parishioners. There will be light refreshments served in the parish hall immediately following the 9:00 am Mass.
We also have a special All Souls Novena of Masses for our deceased loved ones. If you want your loved ones to be on the Novena prayer list, please complete the envelopes for our All Souls Novena of Masses. The envelopes are available on the side tables at all entrances to the church. After you fill out the envelope, you may either drop it in the collection basket or return it to the parish office.