Thinking we have it all together and every issue taken care of can be a very dangerous thing. In my days in music ministry, I had many rather humbling moments as a cantor. Whenever I thought I knew the psalm well enough, God would use that occasion to show me, in front of everyone, that I didn’t. Needless to say, my leading of prayer on those occasions wasn’t very praiseworthy.
But, sometimes I would struggle with a psalm. On those occasions, I would typically work pretty hard on it, practicing it and praying it over and over. Even if it wouldn’t get to the point where it was perfect, I would often say, “Okay, God, I’ve done the best I can, just help me to proclaim your Word as you would have me do it.” And on those occasions, I would almost always be surprised at how wonderful the psalm would sound coming out of my mouth.
The difference between these two experiences, of course, was the one in whom I trusted to give voice to the song. When I thought I had it together and didn’t need to work very hard on it, I trusted in my own talents and knowledge, which was so subject to my own frailty. But when I would work hard on a psalm and eventually just give it up to God, I was trusting in the one in whom there is no frailty at all.
Whether it’s in the raising of families or in our jobs or in the relationships we have with neighbors and friends, we can all be subject to the kind of self-righteous overconfidence that afflicted the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, and even the so-called worshippers that Amos was addressing in today’s first reading. Honesty about who we are is critical to authentic worship.
God does not expect us all to be perfect, because he made us and knows us. He sent his Son among us to call not the righteous, but sinners. We will often stumble and fall into sin in the practice or malpractice of our spiritual lives, but on those occasions, Jesus reaches out to us and longs to dine among us. That’s what brings us here today. Though we are all of us far from perfectly righteous, we are all of us gathered together and can share the meal with our Lord and Master who is Righteousness itself. May we all do more to resemble the tax collectors and sinners who responded to Jesus’ invitation than the Pharisees who preferred to eat with their own kind.