The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9[Jesus] addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. 10“Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 11The 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. 12I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ 13But 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.’ 14I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
I am a believer!
Missionaries have many stories to tell from their experiences; mission life is interesting, fascinating, and engaging, truly fulfilling and most rewarding. Here is one from a missionary who works at Tanzania, East Africa:
A woman, probably 30 or so, flagged me down for a ride as I was returning home from one of my rounds of visiting the mission outstations. I didn’t recognize her, but she told me that she was one of our catechumens preparing for baptism. “I am a believer, Padre!” she said after we had driven quietly for a while, waiting for the conversation to begin.
“What started you as a believer?” I asked. This is her story.
My brother was a teacher. He was baptized a Catholic at Teachers’ Training School. There are no other Christians in our family. My brother became sick; he tried local medicines, and then spent all of his money in different hospitals.
I went to visit him. A nurse told me, “Take your brother home. Take care of him. Wash him. Don’t be afraid! You will not get his disease. We cannot help him; nobody can.” Then I realized that my brother’s sickness was most probably AIDS.
I took him home. Nobody would see him or come near him. Everyone was afraid. Not even our parents would come. I loved my brother. We came from the same womb. I took care of him, cooked his food, and ate with him. I didn’t care if I got his sickness. I was ready to die with him.
One day my brother told me, “My sister, you are a good person. You are the only one who helps me. You must become a believer and be baptized.” He continued, “Please go to the next town. The Padres have a mission outstation and clinic there. Ask the Christians to pray for me.” And so, I went there the next Sunday when they would pray together. I told them about my brother.
That same week, a group of Catholics came to visit my brother. They brought food. They visited with him. They prayed with him. They came every week. They were with him as he died. When he died, not one of our family, besides me, came to bury my brother. No one from our village came. They were all afraid. The Christians washed his body and buried him.
Then, with deep emotion, the woman said, “I want to be one of them, Padre. I am now a believer!”
As we celebrate World Mission Sunday, we recall the words of Pope Paul VI who said that the first form of mission is Christian presence and witness of life; our daily “style-of-life” is the “initial act of evangelization” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 21). Daily activities, duties in the family and community, living together in harmony, being people of integrity, deeds of service and compassion—all these are elements of a basic “faith-witness” that demonstrates how Christian living is to be shaped by faith and neighborly service.
Wordless service, like that of the African Catholics, raises “irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live” (EN 21). Words are cheap and often ineffective. People desire and respect authentic witnesses. The late Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, known for her loving and selfless care of the poorest of the poor, is an icon of Christian presence, life, and service.
World Mission Sunday is for each Christian, missionary by virtue of baptism. To live the Christian life is to be an evangelizer, whether on the streets or in shopping malls, at home or in school, in the workplace or in the local market.
Would our lifestyle ever lead someone to the faith and cause the person to say: I want to be one of them! I saw their deeds! I am now a believer!