|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Out of Sync
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Recently, I was watching a movie on television when I realized that there was something wrong. The video and audio track were not in sync with each other. The lips of the characters were moving but the words were not right. It seemed like they were out of sync by a few minutes but in reality it was only a few seconds; it just seemed more. The more I looked at the movie the more irritating it became. It was impossible to watch after only a short time.
In today’s Gospel Jesus addresses the out of sync lives of the Pharisee and the tax collector. At first pass we might be inclined to think the Pharisee as a terrible villain and the tax collector as a hero. Yet the Pharisee is a good man who believes in the scripture; he tithes from all his income and prays in the synagogue. By all extents of the law he is living the law, as he understands it. But his life is not in sync with the way he prays: he prays with a self-righteous attitude and he condemns other people.
On other hand the tax collector prays in very different way: “O Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” And his life is in sync with how he prays. Tax collectors were known to cream off some extra profit or add an extra tax for themselves; Jesus deliberately uses this as a provocative example for his listeners.
The challenge for us is that there is a bit of both of them in all of us. We often think we are better than others but we need to pray like the tax collector, “O Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.” The reality is that the video track of our lives is often out of sync with our audio track. In other words, do we do as we say we will do? Does the talk match the walk?
The scriptures challenge us today to not only live for Christ but to bring this struggle of synchronization to prayer. We need to be honest with ourselves and with God and say, “O God be merciful to me, a sinner” Our prayer must allow God to speak to us and we must be willing to listen to his word in our hearts. We are trying to keep the audio track–our words–in sync with our video track–our actions.
Each Sunday we collectively say, “Lord, be merciful for we are sinners.” and we re-sync our lives together but also may we take the time to sync each day in prayer and so ensure our video and audio tracks are not out of sync.