A sudden reversal of fortune delights us as we wait and hope to win the lottery. Whoops! I have to buy a ticket first. I guess I won’t be winning. These reversals of fortune occur throughout the Gospel of Luke; it is one of his favorite rhetorical devices.

This is the thematic structure underlying the parable of the two men at prayer. It is rare that Jesus interprets the meaning of a parable for the disciples and for us, but here he succinctly does just that, and in terms of unexpected reversal. In doing so, Jesus also reveals how God answered the prayers of both men. The prayer of the Pharisees, lacking the qualities of humility and faith, is not justified. The tax collector who has faith that God will save him (not his own goodie-two-shoes characteristics) and forgive him.

Paul writes to Timothy also in some way about his own reversal of fortune. Just when everything is going very badly for him, people attacking him on every side and being under arrest, Paul sees the hand of God changing all this and bringing him safely to the other side.

The reversal also appears in the unexpected attention God gives to the poor, the widow, the weak, all because God shows no favorites. We live in a culture today where white people think they are God’s favorites, although they have nothing to show for their presumption except an incredible amount of human suffering because of their arrogance. We live in a time where prejudice and bigotry, both the work of the devil in us, are having a come back unexpected. Perhaps a homily reflecting on these reversals and our prejudices favoring the Pharisee in each of us.

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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