In the Scriptures, the prayers that reach the presence of God are the ones from the poor. God’s attention is drawn to those who need Him most. Sadly, the wealthy and powerful in the world ignore this. Let us remember that God is drawn to the meek and humble of heart, not the arrogant and proud.
Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18
12 The Lord is a God of justice, who knows no favorites. 13 Though not unduly partial toward the weak, yet he hears the cry of the oppressed. 14 The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint. 16 The one who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens. 17 The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, 18 nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.
Psalm 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23
R: The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
2 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth. 3 Let my soul glory in the Lord; the lowly will hear me and be glad. (R) 17 The Lord confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. 18 When the just cry out, the Lord hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them. (R) 19 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. 23 The Lord redeems the lives of his servants; no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him. (R)
Paul is arrested and is brought to Rome where he will eventually be martyred. His fate does not concern him but the fate of the communities he has established in his ministry. He writes to them, and the communities send envoys to ask for advice from him. This challenges us to examine our focus and motivations in life. How committed are we to the work of the Church? Are we committed only for as long as it is convenient to us?
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
6 Beloved: I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. 8 From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. 16 At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 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.
Prayers like that of the rich man in today’s Gospel will not reach the ears of the Lord. He will listen to us only if we stand before Him in humility and truth. The poor man does this honestly, but the rich man is more interested in announcing his accomplishments than thanking God for the blessings he has received.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, and entrusting to us the message of salvation.
9 Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. 10 “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 11 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. 12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ 13 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.’ 14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
When bad things happen, the good that comes from them is people learn to pray. In last Sunday’s parable about the persistent widow, prayer is an expression of our faith. Next to that, we must be humble before God. Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else like the Pharisee who despised the tax collector in our Gospel today.
Humility is not degrading ourselves or putting ourselves down before others. St. Teresa of Avila said humility is “walking in truth” or being truthful. Humility is from the Latin word humus, which means ground or soil. Humility is admitting who we really are and rejoicing in God in our giftedness, such that we are able to humbly accept even our weaknesses and failures, asking for His mercy like the tax collector in the Gospel. The Holy Mass teaches us a lot of things about humility and prayer, especially the importance of self- knowledge that leads to right relationships. Sometimes, like the Pharisee, we forget that we are able to do good things only because of God’s grace. This is why St. Luke declared at the start of today’s Gospel that “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” Jesus said that the tax collector went home justified because he was the one who had the right relationship with God, as he could not enter the temple nor look up to heaven except beat his breast for his sinfulness. He knew where he stood. Fr. Nick Lalog