The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home
October 27th 2013 – 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Luke 18:9-14
Today we are invited to peer into the hearts of two people who are praying to God. The content of their prayer says something about who they really are. Genuine prayer reveals our honest self. After all, who’s kidding whom? God sees right into the center of our hearts. And how we pray reveals to God and to ourselves exactly who we are. Today’s gospel shines the light on two pray-ers. One is proudly occupying the first pew in the local house of worship. He feels he’s in exactly the right place. Right up front. Meanwhile, the second kneels just inside the back door. His basic feeling is unworthiness before God.
To those who know the mind of Jesus, we immediately understand who “the worthy one” in this story really is. The puffed-up fellow in front is filled with himself. Or, as we sometimes say today, he is ego-centered. He may seem very religious, but inside there’s not much substance. The prayerful one in the back is a tax collector. He hopes that God is listening to someone like himself. He’s not sure. He is less filled with himself.
Now notice their prayers. Mr. Front Row uses prayer to build up his ego while he puts others down. The humble man in the shadows offers God his sincere thoughts and feelings. He asks for forgiveness. The first focuses on his accomplishments, which he attributes mostly to himself. The other was emptied of ego, which left plenty of room for God to enter his being. He asked for help because he knew that he deeply depends on God for forgiveness and survival. Sounds a bit like Pope Francis, doesn’t he?
Somewhat foolishly, our culture and society tend to praise those who accomplish great feats, especially if they do it alone. We teach our kids to be independent. We praise them for everything, from their first steps to getting high grades and eventually to securing great jobs. Congratulations, we say. You did it all by yourself. Really? Is that the way it is? Or do we always need God’s help.
One of the blessings of family life is that we often have to depend on each other. When we ask for help, we do so without apology. We gladly help each other – well, most of the time. We are truly members of God’s family. And guess what?” God wants to help us.
©David Thomas, PhD (firstname.lastname@example.org)