Sunday, October 24, 2010

Are We the Pharisee or the Tax Collector?

The Gospel reading for this 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle C) tells us about Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple.  The Pharisee, who is self-righteous, almost asks God to thank him for being such a good person while the tax collector recognizes his failings and asks God for mercy and forgiveness.  Jesus tells us the latter goes home justified rather than the former.

This lesson speaks to us about the quality of our own prayer.  Are we like the Pharisee when we pray?  Do we thank God we're not like all those other people (of another religion, another race, another political persuasion, another sexual orientation)?  Or do we, like the tax collector, pray fervently from our heart recognizing our own faults and failings and sinfulness and ask for God's mercy and forgiveness?

God does not expect us to grovel on our hands and knees to ask for his forgiveness; God will always be ready to forgive when the request for forgiveness comes from a sincere and humble heart.  That is the kind of prayer God looks for from us.  If our prayer is one of gratitude for God's great gifts to us; if we persist in our prayer; and if we pray sincerely for forgiveness, when our final time on this earth comes we can say with St. Paul that we have fought the good fight, we have finished the race, and we have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:6-7).

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