WELCOME TO GOD’S HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH!
*** Reflection ***
As the Jubilee Year of Mercy enters its final month, we gather to celebrate our loving and merciful God by hearing the prayer of the tax collector in the Gospel: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” As hard to believe as it may be that in all this vast universe God hears our prayers, the scriptures tell us today that “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds.” So today let us make humble and honest prayers together to our merciful and loving God.
Pharisee and Tax Collector
If we could take this story to heart, we would be helped enormously in learning how to come before God in prayer.
Story: A newly-commissioned colonel had just moved into his office, when a private soldier entered with a toolbox. To impress the private, the colonel said “be with you in a moment, soldier! I just got a call as you were knocking.” Picking up the phone, the colonel said “General, it’s you! How can I help you?” A dramatic pause followed. Then the colonel said “No problem. I’ll phone Washington and speak to the President about it.” Putting down the phone, the colonel said to the private “Now, what can I do for you?” The private shuffled his feet and said sheepishly, “Oh, just a little thing, sir. They sent me to hook up your phone’!
My generation were given a detailed set of regulations and we were told if we remained faithful to those and not deviate in any way we would so merit heaven. The focus of much religion while I was growing up was to keep people from going to hell. Spirituality, on the other hand, is what frees those who have already been in some kind of hell on earth. Ask anybody in recovery from addictions, compulsions, etc. Religion is about externals, it’s our actions and it’s about control. Spirituality, on the other hand, is what God does, it is internal and it’s about surrender.
But the way to holiness is to discover that I’m a bigger sinner than I ever thought I was! The closer I come to God, the more obvious the sin is. It is a long journey from the Pharisee at the front to the tax-collector at the back. It is a journey of repentance and of facing up to the truth. It is a journey that Life will provide if I have the courage and honesty to find it. If I still think that I should be still up at the front with the Pharisee, then my life will be riddled with guilt and I will never find peace.
The tax-collector knew his place in the larger scheme of things. God is the Creator, we are God’s creatures. I am in need, and Jesus is my Savior. Unlike the Pharisee, I have no right to praise myself above anyone else. All judgement is to be left to God. One can look at the most hardened criminal and say “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” My background or advantages are no reason to boast .. for I could have been born to any parents, in any country, at any time. I did not select my sexuality, the color of my skin, or my religious beliefs. With total conviction, I can stand before God and pray “Oh, God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
Let’s check our own attitude before God. It is like going into the garden on a sunny day, lying back in a deckchair to develop a suntan. The only thing one does is to make oneself available; the sun does all the rest. Let’s not over-emphasize the importance of our contribution when we try to pray. We are all in the same situation of need, when standing before God!
Gospel: Luke 18:9-14
Contrasting approaches to God, in the Temple
Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The Mystical Union of Christ and the Church