A Reflection for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The gospel today illustrates two sides of prayer. The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous, and much like not the miserable tax collector. He was full of himself. He addressed his prayer to himself, not to God. He went home without God’s grace because he did not ask for it.
The tax collector, on the other hand, is “justified” or restored into God’s friendship through his repentance and God’s forgiveness. He addressed his prayer to God. He stood off at a distance beating his breast. He had nothing to boast of; he had only his sins to ask for mercy from the Lord.
Our experience in prayer shows who we are before God. God knows the thoughts of His people. Some people would even say, “Prayer does not change God, rather it changes us.” What we often pray to God is what we usually want him to do. Sometimes, our prayer concerns so much about ourselves. We often for forgiveness for our misgivings in life. We ask more, rather than seek His forgiveness, His frienship.
The prayers illustrated by the two men give us two pictures of how we relate to God. The Pharisee did not ray since he simply compared himself with others. The tax collector, on the other hand, though considered to be a public sinner because of the nature of his job, came to really communicate with god. What is more important to God is the sincere prayer that comes within us. Prayer is humility and humility is prayer. When we pray, we acknowledge our weaknesses and therefore need help.
Sometimes we are like the Pharisee in today’s Gospel who is self-righteous. The book of Sirach therefore reminds us that God justifies those who are humble enough to acknowledge their faults before God.
What do we value in prayer? Are we like the Pharisee who boasts of himself before God? Or are we like the tax collector who beats his breast and ask for God’s mercy and pardon?