Vocation Meditation -
October 24, 2010
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 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
Jesus was a great observer of those who went to the Temple to pray. Always a true Rabbi to his disciples, Jesus brought their attention to what pleases God most when we approach Him in prayer.
Two men chose to pray in their hearts.
There was the Pharisee, a picture of a devout observer of the Law and one different from sinners around him. To Jesus, he did not pray to God. He prayed with himself. True worship is always a prayer offered to God and to God alone. The Pharisee went to the Temple not to pray to God but to inform God how good he was. His disdainful look at sinners made himself the righteous one. He exalted himself.
There was the tax collector, a picture too, of a devout worshipper, standing before God. He was standing afar off, humbled by his realization of being a sinner before His God. His prayer was heartbroken and self-despising that won him acceptance before God.
Today's parable is fitting to help us observe World Mission Sunday, a day we are invited to approach God in solidarity with all our sisters and brothers in need. Jesus reminds us:
- No one who is proud can approach God in prayer. It is said that the gate of heaven is so low that none can enter it save upon their knees. A humble heart bends low before God's majesty, goodness and holiness. When we place our lives beside that of God, we cannot but become small, humble and honest. His light illumines the truth about ourselves. He is our God. We remain His creatures in need of Him.
- No one who despises others can truly pray. In prayer we do not lift ourselves before others. We approach God as a Father conscious of being His children in need of His caring, loving and healing. We kneel before the throne of His mercy. We bring to God a compassionate heart offering the needs of others, especially those for whom people care less. We are our 'brothers' keepers.
'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'
In my prayer, how often do I 'soak myself' in the healing mercy of God?
How these two characters become myself when I pray! Often, I stand by myself praising what I do. Sometimes I also stand afar off asking for your mercy. Lord, make me not rise above others in my prayers. Make me humble and honest. I commit my vocation to follow You, conscious of my mission to nurture it by constantly lifting the needs of others to Your Presence. In Your mercy I find peace. Amen.
For the full Gospel reading for this Sunday, visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops site.