Last week Jesus told us to be persistent and faithful in prayer. Today he tells us about the need for humility in prayer.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells the parable about two men at prayer. One was a Pharisee who strictly observed the religious laws. The other was a publican who collected taxes for the Roman rulers of the country.
While the Pharisee stood up and prayed, reviewing all the good he had done, the tax collector at the back of the temple bowed his head, acknowledged his sins and prayed for God’s mercy.
Jesus said, “It was the second man, and not the first, who pleased God with his prayer.” The tax collector prayed to God from his heart – confessing his sins, asking for God’s forgiveness and mercy and not boasting about himself.
The Pharisee’s prayer was really self-advertising his good deeds. His attention was on himself and not on God. He completely forgot his need for God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy.
Just keeping the rules, just keeping away from sin, is not what being a Christian is all about. Being a Christian means working toward a closer, loving relationship with God. Unless we keep striving to know more about Jesus as a person, becoming more like him in mind and heart and committed to carrying out his mission on earth, we are not actually living the Christian life; we are just rule keepers.
Setting a personal example, Pope Francis continues to challenge us to be Jesus’ disciples and to “get out there and meet the world.”