Who Are The Prostitutes And Tax Collectors In Our World Today?

Tax Collectors

26th Sunday Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: October 1, 2023

Who are the tax collectors and prostitutes in our world today?

Tax collectors and prostitutes at the time of Jesus were seen as people distant from God, people who were impure.  Religious people of the time, such as the chief priests and elders in our Gospel passage, would have seen them as people to avoid.

Imagine how offended the chief priests and elders must have been when Jesus said that the tax collectors and prostitutes were going to be in the Kingdom of God ahead of them!

Who are the tax collectors and prostitutes in our world today?

If Jesus was speaking to us today which group of people might he refer to? Who will be entering the Kingdom of God ahead of us?  When we enter Heaven we might be very surprised at who is ahead of us.  Some people who we consider to be distant from God today, who we see as impure in some way, people we avoid, they might be entering the Kingdom of God ahead of us.

Who are the tax collectors and prostitutes in our world today?

In our second reading today, chapter two of the Letter of Paul to the Philippians, we heard what I believe to be one of the most beautiful and important passages of the New Testament.  Read and pray with it.  It offers a vision of the Gospel, the Good News revealed in Jesus.

It is also a great passage about life of a Christian community, such as our parish.  As a Pastor if I was to give you parishioners a pep talk about how I would want you to live as members of this parish, it might be this passage of Paul that I would use.

Paul says to those in Philippi, “be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”  The unity of the church was always a deep concern of Paul.  He then goes on to say, “in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”  Imagine any Catholic parish or any family in which all members saw the others in this way, with this sort of humility.

Paul says, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”  He then presents a great hymn about Jesus.  In it we see the heart of the Gospel.  Jesus, truly God, empties himself, lets go of all power, born as a human being like us, even accepting our human reality of death, death on the cross.

We human beings so often long for power, influence, wealth, promotion.  Jesus lets go of power and instead accepts a demotion.  This is the God we believe in and trust as disciples of Jesus.  The God of the Cross, a humble God.  We are called to have the same mind, to be with and see others with humility.

Jesus was low enough to lift up those who were seen as too low for God.  The tax collectors and prostitutes.  Who are the tax collectors and prostitutes in our world today?  The living God revealed in Jesus just might surprise us when they go ahead of us in the Kingdom of God.

Recently a reporter interviewed me about the new church.  He asked if the church in the future would still be around and still be relevant.  I smiled and thought how for 2000 years people have been declaring the death of the church.  Beginning with the Crucifixion of Jesus and continuing in the various periods of the church.  The Roman Empire persecutions, the Barbarian invasions, the French revolution, communist and nazi states in the twentieth century and secular atheism today.

But, like Jesus, the church is not about promotion, not about power, not about influence, not about  relevance in a human way.  Rather, the church is at its best when it empties itself of power and accepts demotion.  When we become lower then we can be with those who are treated as the lowest in our society.  We can walk with them into the kingdom of God.

We need to ask ourselves today, who are the tax collectors and prostitutes in our world today?


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