How many of you are old enough to remember when they changed the speed limit to 55 on the highways? At least Sammy Hagar was an honest man – he readily admitted that was one law he had no intention of following. I, on the other hand, am follower of the law when it comes to speed. I pride myself on the fact that I am willing and able to follow the speed limits posted regardless of the careless abandon of the other drivers on the road. My motto is God gave us speed control – use it! And I do – regardless of the road, regardless of the speed, I’ll use my speed control as my own personal insurance policy not to break the law. I spent many a morning driving down 64, in the second lane from the left, admonishing everyone who passed me. I would interrupt my morning Rosary constantly to call people “sinners” as they passed by me. I remember the one morning, a Lincoln Town Car passed me on the left and I looked over to call the driver a sinner and saw the smallest poof of gray hair, a right hand clutching the steering wheel and the tip of a finger on the left hand – a middle finger – pointed in my direction. Sarah got a good laugh out of that one!
To change speeds a little bit hear (how about that for a smooth transition), have you ever sat on the sidelines at a sporting match and pointed out every perceived foul that the opposing team commits; the whistle finally blows and you have that look of “I told you so” until you realize they’ve called the foul against your child!! WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE?!? I have coached, I have officiated and I was still that guy on the sideline yelling like that.
That was then, this is now. A few years back, having read this Gospel (that we read again today) I realized that I was that guy. Not the humble one begging for God’s mercy, but the arrogant one pointing out everyone else’s flaws and not drawing attention to mine.
O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week,
and I pay tithes on my whole income.
That even sounds like something I would write. But I’ve tried to change. I now set my speed control at 2 miles above the posted speed limit. Why? Because, technically I am breaking the law just like everyone else, so I can’t pass judgement on them anymore. I stand away from the crowd at sporting games and Sarah and I kibitz amongst ourselves and do our best not to yell (too loudly).
So which of the two men referred to in our Gospel do you relate too? The Pharisee or the Tax Collector?
Do something great for our Lord today – look up the word humble in the dictionary and present yourself in that manner to God – and your neighbor (and to the official who just blew that call).
God’s will, not mine, be done.
Be not afraid; just have faith.
Jesus, I trust in You.
He must increase; I must decrease.