Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
"Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
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.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.'
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.'
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."
by Father Greg Friedman, OFM
Today’s Gospel continues a series of Gospel reflections on prayer. Prayers of petition are usually the easiest to pray. My Franciscan community spends an extended time before we begin our evening meal together, and we pray out loud for a variety of intentions—our families, friends, our inner-city neighbors, the wider world around us. Sometimes the same intentions come week after week. We try to be patient in waiting for God to answer those prayers.
We often say that prayer doesn’t change God, rather it changes us. Today’s Gospel helps us appreciate that bit of wisdom. Our Gospel story is the parable of the two men who went to the temple to pray: One was filled with his own self-righteousness; the other humbly acknowledges his need.
Our prayers are often full of things we’re asking for—needs we have or help for others. And that’s OK: Jesus encourages us to pray prayers of petition. But today’s parable helps us to see where we must first begin: with a change of heart. Coming before the Lord with our need, our sinfulness, our openness to God must be the starting point for our prayer. Since all prayer is first the work of the Holy Spirit in us, we can see how beginning our prayers in humility is already God working to change our hearts.
by Father Dan Kroger, OFM
• The first reading says that the “Lord is a God of justice.” What does that mean in terms of how God treats the oppressed and the poor?
Sirach says God is “not deaf” to the cry of the widow and of the orphan. What does that mean?
• In this week's second reading, Paul says he is “already being poured out like a libation.” What is a libation?
Paul praises God for standing by him when everyone else abandoned him. What does Paul think about those who did not stand by him when he was on trial?
• Jesus tells a parable in the Gospel addressed to those “who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” Can you retell the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector?
Who went home at peace with God? What does it mean to say, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted”?
Do you like the tax collector or the Pharisee? Why is that?
by Susan Hines-Brigger
• The phrase from the second reading—"I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith."—is one that is often found on inspirational posters and memes. Make your own inspirational picture using this or another phrase from this week's readings or Gospel. Hang it where it's visible to you and can serve as a source of inspiration.
• In the Gospel, the tax collector repents for his sins. We have that same opportunity through the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Take advantage of that gift and find a time to go to confession at your parish.