Looking Closely at Ourselves

October 27, 2019 – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke (18:9-14)

Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else. 
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘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.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”


Have you ever been judged because of what you have done before, of a mistake, or failure or sin that you have committed and the people around you seemed to consider you hopeless and beyond redemption? It is very devastating to be judged by others especially when we are “put in a box,” that, as if there is nothing more in us except our sins and failures.

Aside from being judged by others, each of us too can be the one who judge others because of their mistakes and failures in life. We could have played to be the righteous individuals who scrutinize people searching for their faults. We could be that mean person whose main intention is to bring other people down by shaming and gossiping their  weaknesses in order to hide our own sins. This happens among our families, circle of friends and even in our workplaces.

This Sunday, I would like you to listen to one of the members of the Redemptorist Youth Ministry. Ella Mae Aguda will share her reflections to us and let us discover together on how the Lord invites us today. And so let, us welcome Ella Mae.

Good afternoon everyone.

I would like to start my reflection with a famous quotation “Never judge a book by its cover.” It is so easy to utter these words but it is really so hard to put them into action . It’s so easy to judge people by their mistakes, their ugly past and their wrong decisions. It’s so easy to call others with degrading names and tagging them with hurting words. I will not deny this kind of attitude because I myself have tried and judged people based on how they look liked and of their past. 

Let me tell you a short situation where I have judged people but later on I was confronted by that attitude of mine which helped also to change my perspective, to change the way I relate with others and to change my life. 

I met friends in an unexpected situations. At first I thought they were just living to enjoy their life but then I realized they were not thinking  about others but only themselves. These friends drowned themselves into different vices. Seeing them, I realized I have developed hatred towards them. Looking at them, I have already despised them for being like that. Thus, I believed that they were people whom, I think, don’t care about their parents or family. These friends would only rather drink, smoke, party than go to school and to the church. 

Because of that feeling of despise against them, I also began to feel superior than them. I even began to feel grateful that I am not like them. In mind, I have completely separated myself from them. Them as the bad guys and me the good girl. I have become condemning.

However, as time passed by, slowly I realized how I misjudged them completely. When I got to know them deeper, I was made aware of their stories. Behind those actions were stories about their struggles in their families and their painful experiences. I was made aware that those actions were only façade to escape from their painful reality. Those actions have become their coping from so much difficulty. 

From that deeper knowledge and awareness about them, it led me to confront my self-righteousness.  I began to see my own failures and sins and so I started to ask myself, “Who is the sinner now?” “Kinsa ang mas makasasala sa amua?”

​As realizations sink in to me, I asked myself why was I like that? Why did I judge them? I felt my conscience eating me and I realized how my judgment can ruin someone’s life. I realized how my judgment buildtan invisible wall between me and those people. I realized how I failed as a servant of God. I know that my God is a forgiving God so why would I judge and condemn others when the Lord would love to forgive them readily?

Being part of the Redemptorist Youth Ministry helped me understand and made me realize my own failures and sins that brought me to humble myself yet recognizing also how beloved, gifted and empowered I am. 

I realized that this experience of mine is another opportunity for me to deepen my relationship with God and purify my heart. I myself have experienced the acceptance that I needed most with my co-youth ministers.  Despite my insecurities I was accepted and loved. Because of that, my co-youth ministers have inspired me to become a better version of myself. Thus, through the Redemptorist Youth Ministry, I was taught that to judge a person is to miss an amazing and wonderful story of life and salvation.

In conclusion, I could say now, God made each one of us in a very unique way. Each one is beautiful inside and out in God’s eyes, and this is something we need to recognize too. Someone said that when we stop judging other people, we start opening our hearts and we start realizing how blessed, how lucky and how beautiful life is.

Ella Mae shared to us her wonderful experience that led her to her personal conversion. I myself also have a similar experience like Ella. 

I had this classmate who appeared to be always untidy, late and worst would usually fail his exams. Yet, when we moved up to a higher year, there was something that surprised the class about him. Though he still looked untidy and sometimes came late, but, his exams got higher and better results. Every time he passed an exam there was malice in our minds. Everyone suspected him that he cheated. Most of us, even our teacher couldn’t believe that he had the potential. Others became indignant and felt bad whenever he got a higher score than those who usually got high scores.

Most of us judged him that he did not have the capacity. We judged him of his past behavior and of his failures. Thus, we have failed to recognize that he had actually that capacity. We refused to believe in him because we felt insecure of his capacities and potentials.

The Gospel story that we have heard today conveys this message to us. To become self-righteous only blinds us. Thinking highly too much of ourselves will even prevent us from asking God to show his mercy upon us because we already think that we do not need God’s mercy. Therefore, the self-righteous attitude of the Pharisee is basically a denial of God. Moreover, this attitude also leads us to build invisible walls that separate us from others, as what Ella Mae shared to us.

Thus, we might still have that idea of condemning our brothers and sisters who were considered terrible sinners. We too might have that attitude of separating those people whom we consider as unclean for fear of being contaminated and be associated with them.

Thus, Jesus invites us now to rather look closely at ourselves and to examine better our intentions, thoughts and actions so that it may also lead us to that recognition of our failures and sins. This realization will hopefully lead us to also join the tax collector in praying, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” 

Certainly, we are invited also to be more understanding of those who failed but not in the sense of condoning such failures and sins. We are invited to be merciful rather than condemning.

Let us remind ourselves too, that to both the righteous and the sinners, God does not condemn but God rather desires healing, reconciliation and fullness of life for all.

This calls us, then, to see more in the person of our brothers and sisters, to stop our harsh judgments and condemnations, to stop our gossiping and image shaming that only destroy the image of our brother or sister.

I would like to invite you then, to embrace a family member, or a relative or a friend whom we know have sinned against us so that reconciliation will also begin in us. In this way then, we will hopefully become witnesses of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Hinaut pa.

Jom Baring, CSsR


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