Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The 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. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But 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.’ I 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.”
‘For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled’
To be justified before God, Jesus tells us, we must approach God with humility, mindful only of our sinfulness.
The Pharisee uses prayer to exalt himself. In his prayer (if we can call it prayer), he boasts to God of his compliance to the prescriptions of the law. God rejects this kind of prayer. The Pharisee goes away unjustified.
We are all sinners in the eyes of God. We cannot take pride in anything but our sins. Our contributions in the church cannot be used to get more credit or recognition.
God rejects prayers that put other people down. In praying, we must exercise charity to others even only in our thoughts.
Paul is acceptable to God when he prays because of his humility. He does not boast of his accomplishments. He seeks to be righteous. He is confident that he will see the Lord. Being righteous does not assure him of freedom from harm. Paul still feels persecuted and deserted by his friends. In his suffering, he acknowledges God who sustains him. His survival means that God’s message will spread all the more.
In the First Reading, Sirach describes the Lord as a God of justice who hears the cry of the oppressed, the wail of the orphan, the complaint of the widow, and the prayer of the lowly.
In our prayer, let us present to God our miseries, our frustrations, and our sins rather than our little accomplishments that are often only for compliance or for “photo ops.” God sides with those who are disadvantaged and who recognize their sins and beg God’s forgiveness for them.
SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2019,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.