Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Bargaining with God
Points to note
The dialogue for this session revolves around leading the children to discuss what they think God owes them as a result of their good works. Inevitably, the children may already know that God does not owe them anything. As a child, I knew that but I was a little devious in suggesting to God that the good deed I did that day was not done with any motive but I will leave it up to God how he intends to respond to my good deed!
The idea is that God does not owe us anything and we cannot bargain with God but we try to contrast between what the children think and what we then lead them to realise. The contrast is, then, between the Pharisee and the tax collector.
Acclamation before the Gospel
Blessed are you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
for revealing the mysteries of the kingdom to mere children.
Explain what a Pharisee is. They are members of a group within Judaism who believe that salvation lies in being faithful to God by scrupulously following the Law to the letter and that anyone not following the exact wording of the law is condemned. A tax collector, on the other hand, is treated as an outcast of society because they work for the Romans, who are foreigners and because they tend to collect more than their due.
The Lord be with you.
All: And with your spirit.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Luke
All: Glory to you O Lord
Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else. “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. 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. I fast twice a week; I pay my Temple taxes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his chest and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.
This is the Gospel of the Lord
Have we all done good things at home? For Mom and Dad. When we do good things, will Mom and Dad do anything in return for us? Have we ever had an arrangement with Dad so that he would buy us, say, a bicycle if we pass the exams? Discuss how parents would ‘owe’ children things if they do good. Extend the discussion to bargaining with God. If we do certain good things, what does God owe us?
Discuss the parable again. Discuss what the Pharisee and the tax collector were thinking. Ask the children what the Pharisee thought he has done right (look at what he said) and what God owes him for it. Ask the children what the tax collector thought he has done wrong and how he thinks God will deal with him (not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven). Spend more time on the reading as there is a lot there that tells us what the Pharisee and the tax collector said.
So, does God owe anything to the Pharisee? So it is with us: does God owe us anything for all the good things that we have done? Contrast that with the answers that the children have given to the question at the beginning of the session.
What about the tax collector? Was God happy with him? If so, was God happy with him because of the bad things that he had done or was it because he humbled himself and acknowledged it?
Link it to what is expected of us. Do we think we owe everything to God or that God owes us something. The thing the Pharisee did wrong was to think that he earned his rights to heaven because of what he did by himself, not that God who has full rights to decide who is saved and who will not, has given him the grace to be saved. The tax collector who knows he is totally useful without God’s mercy has something that God liked which the Pharisee did not – the awareness that he (the tax collector) is totally reliant on God.