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How to view ‘the rest of mankind’

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How to view ‘the rest of mankind’

‘The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here…”’

That excerpt from this Sunday’s Gospel reminds me of a scene in The Way.  As far as I recall, the group of pilgrims – who had all met by chance along the Camino de Santiago – had been sharing a meal (and not a few bottles).  They were all a bit frazzled, their patience and tempers a little fragile, and were voicing opinions that would have been better left unsaid.  The main character, Tom (Martin Sheen) was particularly vocal and was repaid with the following rebuff:

‘You are not one of us, because you think you are better than us.’

These were hard words for Tom to hear but imagine if he had not heard them on earth.  Imagine him arriving at the Pearly Gates and meeting St Peter at his celestial check-in desk:

‘Now let me see… Avery, Thomas…’

Meanwhile, Tom peeks past St Peter and sees some familiar souls within.  He thinks, oh crumbs, really? He got in?!  And her?!  I ought to be okay then…

St Peter continues,

‘…Yes, on balance and through the mercy of God, you would be admitted…’

– ‘Would be?  Don’t you mean ‘will be’?’

‘Ah, well you would be, but for the fact that you are not one of us.  You are not one of us, you see, because you think you are better than us…’

Argh!  Let’s learn the lesson now, rather than at the Pearly Gates and, as St Paul says to the Philippians, ‘Let nothing be done through contention, neither by vain glory: but in humility, always consider the other person to be better than yourself’ (Ph 2:3).

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