10th Sunday after Pentecost 29.7.18 Identity
Some believe in reincarnation - which would mean we could be more than one person over the course of the years.
But as Christians we believe that we stay the same person all the way through. Once conceived we have an immortal soul, and will never cease to exist, much less turn into anyone else.
We might wish we were someone else, or had different parents, or were born in a different time or place etc, but we cannot change any of those things.
Nor can we change the ways in which God has gifted us, or restricted us: the things we find easy or hard to do.
It is all part of God's plan for each person.
We can accept if we are not good at something – if we cannot sing or run fast, for instance. But there are some things we should not accept, such as the presence of sin in our lives.
The pharisee in today’s Gospel compares himself with the publican, thinking himself better.
It is a dangerous approach. For one thing it is very hard to have an accurate idea of how good or bad someone else is.
Even to know that for ourselves is hard. We try to be in the grace of God, and to get things right, but we do not always know exactly whether He approves or not.
We do not try to be better than others but better than ourselves at previous times.
We are tempted to take pleasure in the downfall of others, because it can make us feel superior. If everyone else were a worse sinner than I then I would be the best person around!
But this is not progress. We should simply want that every person, ourselves included come to the best possible place with God, each one developing to the level God wants.
There is no place for envy or conceit. As St Paul puts it: Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (1 Cor 13,6)
We want the best, even for our enemies, even if they do not want the best for us.
They might be trying to destroy us but we return blessing for curse (Lk 6,28). That is Christianity in full flight.
Christ Himself put this into practice, thus backing up His own teaching.
The pharisee should have prayed for the publican, and asked for mercy for both.
Instead of taking comfort in the faults of others, we should seek to be good: for its own sake; because it pleases God; and because it produces the happiest results.
We support each other at all times; exhorting each other to seek to overcome faults - one of which is this precise thing: that we take too much notice of the faults of others.
We cure this by seeking the goodness of God, and wishing it to be spread widely.
There is no re-incarnation; we achieve the fulness of our destiny by becoming the person He meant us to be.
We do not envy anyone because we have discovered the direct link with the love of God, which more than satisfies our quest for happiness.
We do not know every detail of what God wills for us; but one thing we know for sure - that He wants us to be without sin, radiant in holiness.
We do not ask, Why have you made me thus? Does the pot say to the potter: why have you made me thus? (Rm 9, 21; Is 45,9) We do not complain of God's will for us; instead, we cooperate with it.
Thus we find our true identity; each one of us filling a unique place in God's vast vision. We do not need, or want to be anything other than that.