The following reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager (c) 2015, whose website is located at DailyScripture.net
How can we know if our prayer is pleasing to God or not? The prophet Hosea, who spoke in God’s name, said: “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6). The prayers and sacrifices we make to God mean nothing to him if they do not spring from a heart of love for God and for one’s neighbor. How can we expect God to hear our prayers if we do not approach him with humility and with a contrite heart that seeks mercy and forgiveness? We stand in constant need of God’s grace and help. That is why Scripture tells us that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34).
Jesus reinforced this warning with a vivid story of two people at prayer. Why did the Lord accept one person’s prayer and reject the other’s prayer? Luke gives us a hint: despising one’s neighbor closes the door to God’s heart. Expressing disdain and contempt for others is more than being mean-minded. It springs from the assumption that one is qualified to sit in the seat of judgment and to publicly shame those who do not conform to our standards and religious practices. Jesus’ story caused offense to the religious-minded Pharisees who regarded “tax collectors” as unworthy of God’s grace and favor. How could Jesus put down a “religious person” and raise up a “public sinner”?
Jesus’ parable speaks about the nature of prayer and our relationship with God. It does this by contrasting two very different attitudes towards prayer. The Pharisee, who represented those who take pride in their religious practices, exalted himself at the expense of others. Absorbed with his own sense of self-satisfaction and self-congratulation, his boastful prayer was centered on his good religious practices rather than on God’s goodness, grace, and pardon. Rather than humbling himself before God and asking for God’s mercy and help, this man praised himself while despising those he thought less worthy. The Pharisee tried to justify himself before God and before those he despised; but only God can justify us. The tax collector, who represented those despised by religious-minded people, humbled himself before God and begged for mercy. His prayer was heard by God because he had true sorrow for his sins. He sought God with humility rather than with pride.
This parable presents both an opportunity and a warning. Pride leads to self-deception and spiritual blindness. True humility helps us to see ourselves as we really are in God’s eyes and it inclines us to seek God’s help and mercy. God dwells with the humble of heart who recognize their own sinfulness and who acknowledge God’s mercy and saving grace. I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit(Isaiah 57:15). God cannot hear us if we boast in ourselves and despise others. Do you humbly seek God’s mercy and do you show mercy to others, especially those you find difficult to love and to forgive?
“Lord Jesus, may your love and truth transform my life – my inner thoughts, intentions, and attitudes, and my outward behavior, speech, and actions. Where I lack charity, kindness, and forbearance, help me to embrace your merciful love and to seek the good of my neighbor, even those who cause me ill-favor or offense. May I always love as you have loved and forgive others as you have forgiven.”
The following reflection is courtesy of PresentationMinistries.com (c) 2015. Their website is located at PresentationMinistries.com
PRAYING TO GOD OR SELF?
“Believe me, this man went home from the temple justified but the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled while he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” Luke 18:14
The Pharisee in today’s Gospel reading was not humble but self-centered. When he prayed, he “prayed to himself” (Lk 18:11, our transl) and talked more about himself than about God. Also, the Pharisee focused his prayer on himself by favorably comparing himself with a tax-collector praying in the back of the Temple (Lk 18:11).
The Pharisee was destroying himself by his addiction to self because he was one of those “relying on themselves that they are righteous and despising others” (Lk 18:9, our transl). When we rely on ourselves, we will be unforgiving towards others, for “to err is human, to forgive is divine.” Only those relying on God’s power can forgive. Those relying on their own power cannot forgive. When we don’t forgive, we ourselves are not forgiven, for the Lord told us to pray to be forgiven as we forgive those who sin against us (Mt 6:12). When we don’t receive God’s forgiveness, we don’t see Him as our loving Abba. Under these circumstances, we naturally tend to pray to ourselves rather than to God. Of course, this kind of prayer is meaningless at best. We may as well just stop praying which many people have done. Our only hope of escaping from this damning dilemma is to repent of relying on ourselves and to give our lives totally to Christ.
Prayer: Father, I give my heart to You so I can pray to You. Promise:“He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth.” Hos 6:3 Praise: On a Marriage Encounter weekend, Marge heard and received the message that God truly loved her. To the joy of her Catholic husband, she was filled with a desire to become a Catholic herself. They now receive the Eucharist side-by-side as a witness to their unity in Jesus.
Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant my permission to publish One Bread, One Body covering the period from February 1, 2015 through March 31, 2015.
Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, August 25, 2014.
The rescript is a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free of doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted ecclesial permission agree with the contents, opinions, or statements