Reflection by Fr. Ed Liptak, SDB
God is not deaf; neither is he blind. He hears what we say, he is aware of what we do. Fortunately for us, those words are not a threat. They may be, but only those who do evil need to fear the All‐Powerful displeasure, as Jesus said, of the One who can ‘cast us into hell.’ Yes, Heaven is for real. So is Hell. Yet how comforting, if with God’s powerful help, we stay on the narrow path of good works, for he also sees and hears the good we do, and he registers it for the Kingdom of Heaven. God does not trifle.
Thus, we come to realize how important it is to bring humble awareness of who we are, our real selves, to our prayer. St. Luke’s Gospel has already shared qualities of prayer by events or parables Jesus used to stress them: ‘Thankfulness’ in prayer, by the event of the ten lepers, only one of whom returns to pour thanks upon Jesus and to glorify God. Then, ‘Persistence’ in prayer, by the parable of the widow who pleaded for justice and was finally heard by an unjust judge. Jesus taught instead that God ‘Heard’ the widow’s prayer ‘Immediately,’ not like the judge, who because of human weakness needed many pleas to catch up with what was just. Finally, Jesus lamented that so little ‘Faithfulness’ would be found at his return to earth. ‘Faith,’ and ‘Trust,’ in him must also be qualities of our prayer.
Many lessons can be learned from today’s new parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. First, we note the ugly ‘self‐satisfaction’ of the Pharisee. He is the ancestor of those who approach prayer convinced of their own holiness. How good he tried to make himself as he announced to God what a fine person was then speaking to him. He foolishly compared himself to the woeful sins of the other, the tax collector. God was NOT pleased.
After this ugly display we focus on the humble person who hardly dares raise his eyes to God, for he admitted the evil of his life. His cry is for mercy, he is a sinful person, and that we know is a fine attitude to bring to our own prayer, one in ‘Need of Mercy.’ This quality of prayer taught by Jesus is powerful: if you wish to be heard, come ‘Humbly’ to the Lord, no matter how badly you may have fallen.
“Bring me safe, Lord, to your Heavenly Kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever!”
(Paul in 2 Timothy 4:18)