BY: Rev Sylvanus Amaobi



(1st Reading, Sir. 35:12-14,16-18; 2nd Reading, 2 Tim 4:6-8,16-18; Gospel, Luke 18:9-14)

Dear brothers and sisters, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

In the scriptural passages of last week, the focus was on prayer and some of the characteristics that make prayer effective. In the teaching from the scriptural passages, the church stressed for us the need to be obedient to God’s word. She also stressed the need for patience, persistence, and perseverance in our prayer lives. In today’s scriptural passages, still focusing on prayer, she wants us to cultivate the virtue of humility. Humility is an inner disposition that makes us know who we are, accept who we are, our limitations, and our dependence, and recognize God’s omnipotent power. Humility best attunes us and allows our prayers to rise to God. Ben Sirach tells us in the first reading (Sirach 35:12-14,16-18), “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds”.

In the Gospel (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus tells a parable about two people who went to the temple area to pray: a Pharisee and a Tax Collector (Publican). The Pharisee prayed thus, “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”. On the other side, the Publican stood at a distance and would not raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, “O God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

What the Pharisee did cannot be called prayer in the right sense of the word. It lacked one of the basic ingredients of prayer, namely, humility. Instead, it is self-eulogy made for self-glorification and gratification. It is a portrayal of self-righteousness to the denigration of the other. He was too full of himself and thought too highly of himself that he did not recognize that he was a sinner, nor did he acknowledge his dependence on God. His attitude was an exhibition of arrogance and pride. “I am not like the rest of humanity,” he says. Little wonder, his ‘prayer’ was not answered. On the other hand, the tax collector (Publican) showed humility. He realized or recognized his sinful nature and inadequacies and would not even raise his eyes to heaven. He beat his breast and prayed. His prayer was answered, and he was also exalted. The Lord extolled his attitude, but the attitude of the Pharisee was condemned.

It is important to distinguish between the action of the Pharisee and the words of Paul in the second reading (2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-18). Paul, writing to Timothy, said, “I am already being poured out like libation… I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on, the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on the day, not only me but to all who have longed for his appearance. The question is, was that an act of self-righteousness by Paul? Far from it. Yes, Paul acknowledged his accomplishments, but he believed they were by the power of God. Thus he says, “the Lord stood by me and gave me strength” (2 Tim 4:17). Again, his words were to encourage Timothy and, indeed, every believer to stand firm in faith and win the crown of glory. Unlike the Pharisee, Paul did not despise anyone or claim not to be like the rest of humanity.

As we ponder on this message, let us ask ourselves, are we spiritually proud? Do we despise others and exhibit a holier-than-thou attitude? Do we encourage others through our good deeds and words? Do we show an attitude of humility in our prayer lives? We need to personalize these questions and answer them honestly. May the Lord help us! Have a happy Sunday.

Always remember that Jesus loves you.

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