Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 27
As We Continue Our Pilgrimage through Life, May We Open Ourselves to Embracing That Quality of Christ-like Humility and Meekness of Heart, Which Shall Bring Us Ever Closer to the Very Heart of God Himself.
In today’s Gospel, we hear a heartfelt prayer coming from the depths of one’s humility, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
When you and I read or hear this parable about the Pharisee and the tax-collector, how do we find ourselves relating to it? Do we ask ourselves the question, “Which one of these two people am I more alike?” And as we begin to reflect upon our own faith journey, do we find ourselves acting prideful and being judgmental of others, or do we embrace the virtues of humility and meekness, knowing our own unworthiness as we stand in the awesome Presence of Almighty God?
As we continue our pilgrimage through life, journeying with Christ and reflecting upon all that our Lord has taught us, the daily Scriptures help us to realize our own unworthiness, our own sinfulness which brought Christ to the Cross, so that we may be washed clean in the out-flowing of His own Most Precious Blood.
Our pilgrimage with our Lord is an evolving journey, one in which, with an opened heart and with the help of God’s grace, we are able to discern within ourselves a process of change from childhood selfishness to a matured sense of selflessness, a journey from self-centeredness and ego to one of loving self-sacrifice, a spiritual pilgrimage from pride and arrogance to the virtues of humility and meekness.
Even in the journey which you and I travel in developing relationships with other people, and in the relationship which we develop with our Lord, it may be a journey in which we may find ourselves starting out sounding like the Pharisee, “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector.”
But as we evolve in our spiritual maturity, again with the help of God’s grace, we begin to become more Christ-centered, more focused on what our Lord is asking of us in our individual walks of faith.
And we begin to pray, not of ourselves as the Pharisee did in his own conceited praise, but with a true sense of humility, acknowledging that, in our own unworthiness, we owe all that we are and ever shall be to our Eternal and Most Merciful Father in Heaven, the Creator of all that has ever been, is now and ever will be!
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “In the silence of the heart, God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself.” And Saint Faustina would write about the abyss of her own misery, and how God would fill it with His incomprehensible Love and Mercy.
Our faith teaches us that true prayer is the raising of one’s mind, heart and soul to God. Prayer is the process in which we converse with God; and, in our silence, He converses with us.
When you and I reflect upon our own prayer life, do we speak from the height of our pride and self-will, or out of the depths of a humbled and contrite heart? Do we approach God with an inflated sense of self-esteem or one of complete unworthiness?
In the Book of Proverbs, we read, “When pride comes, disgrace comes…” For it is pride which separates us from God; it is pride which leads us into even greater sin.
In a homily that Pope Saint John Paul II gave in December 1999, he said, “Pride, presumption and trust in oneself alone, which are expressed in arrogance, deceit and wickedness, impede or hinder conversion.”
And yet, for those of us who seek true conversion in our lives, we find ourselves realizing that in order to truly love, to truly become Christ-like, we must first begin to embrace that quality of humility which allows us to become more like the tax-collector – “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
To be human is to stumble in life, and the Pharisee seems to think he is incapable of human failure, and he thanks God for what he believes to be a wondrous gift – an illusion from which he is terribly suffering. The tax collector, on the other hand, is a realist, knowing only too well his unworthiness, and will ultimately receive the mercy he seeks. His prayer has come down to us through the centuries as “The Jesus Prayer” – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
It is in the humility and simplicity of this brief yet profoundly honest prayer in which God recognizes within our hearts the true spirit of a humbled and contrite soul – a soul which pleases and touches the very Heart of God Himself. For we read from the Book of Sirach today, “The one who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens. The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds.”
In our daily lives, whether we be at work or at home, whether we wish to admit it or not, there is some of the pride of the Pharisee and some of the humility of the tax-collector in each of us; and, to a greater or lesser degree, each one of us is called by our Lord to make that journey from pride to humility, for the sake of our own salvation.
In today’s parable, the Pharisee thought that he was righteous and holy, convincing himself that he was better than anyone else. And in his pride and arrogance, he set himself up against God. That is why the humble tax-collector, who sought God’s mercy, went home justified, for he received the mercy for which he prayed, and the proud Pharisee did not.
And in our Second Reading today, we witness Paul’s humility which recognized his own unworthiness. Yet, he lived his life as a missionary Apostle with a total dependence upon the God of Love and Mercy, always giving our Lord the honor which was truly His due –
“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day…The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
In our own life of faith, do we open our hearts in total surrender to God’s will, as did Saint Paul? Or are we more like those today whose hearts are filled with conceit and arrogance, turning our backs on the teachings of our faith and ignoring those who are needful of compassion, love and mercy?
If you and I are not sensitive to the needs of other’s, then we have truly failed to understand what God is asking of each of us. The Pharisee was not sensitive to the tax-collector. The Pharisee felt he was better and, therefore, failed in his relationship with his God.
The tax-collector, however, was sensitive to his own failings and weaknesses, and, as a result, his humility brought him into an intimate relationship with God’s Loving Mercy. Sensitivity to other people and an intimate relationship with God will almost always go hand-in-hand.
As you and I live our faith each day in all that we think, in all that we say and do on this side of eternity, our Savior is reminding us in today’s Gospel that we are each called to make the journey from prideful Pharisee to humble tax-collector, that we are each called to make the journey from conceit to meekness.
And in this reminder, our Lord is impressing upon us that “…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
In our continuing pilgrimage through life, may we open ourselves to embracing that quality of Christ-like humility and meekness of heart, so that each of us may arrive at the point where we can truly pray from our hearts, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” And we, too, shall go home justified in God’s Loving Mercy!
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “Those who serve God to please him are accepted; their petition reaches the clouds. The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal; Nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds.” (Sirach 35:20-21)
- “A contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.” (Psalm 51:19b)
- “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.’” (Luke 18:11)
- “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.’” (Luke 18:13)
- “When pride comes, disgrace comes; but with the humble is wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)
- “Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
- “In their insolence the wicked boast: ‘God does not care; there is no God.’” (Psalm 10:4)
- “…all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: ‘God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.’ So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:5b-7)
- “…for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14bc)
- “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day…The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8a, 18)
Prayer for the Day
give us the humility which realizes its ignorance,
admits its mistakes, recognizes its need,
welcomes advice, accepts rebuke.
“Help us always to praise rather than to criticize,
to sympathize rather than to discourage,
to build rather than to destroy,
and to think of people at their best
rather than at their worst.
“This we ask for Thy Name’s sake. Amen.”Rev. William Barclay