Time for a reality check! Do you remember Fr. Mark’s homily this past spring on prayer and learning HOW to pray? Did you take a copy of the book “Prayer for Beginners” that was provided in the narthex that weekend? Many did….we ran out and had to order more! So, how is your prayer life going?
The story in Luke’s gospel today invites us to examine our prayer by comparing the prayer of the two men praying at the temple. Both leave the temple and probably looked the same to anyone going into the temple. One man, the tax collector, left a changed person in right relationship with God. The other, the Pharisee was not. He aimed his prayer at himself and his accomplishments rather than in awe, humility, and gratitude toward God. Yet in the eyes of his contemporaries, the Pharisee would have been considered an exemplary spiritual model. Tax collects on the other hand, were considered suspect, dishonest, thieving people, the least respected of society. Everything the Pharisee said in his prayer was true. He fasted twice a week while only one day a year was required by the law. He tithed on everything he owned. The law required a tithe only of the produce of crops and flocks. When we examine the Pharisee’s pious self-assurance through the lens of the Good News of Jesus, we can see that he missed the mark first by being so sure of his own merits and achievements, and second by failing to credit God, the source of his blessings. The tax collector did recognize God as the source of all good and asked only for God’s compassion and forgiveness.
Authentic prayer produces change – not in God, but in ourselves. Raymond Brown, an eminent Scripture scholar, once said that if no change occurs as a result of prayer, then one has not really prayed. Today, as we leave this Eucharistic celebration, we will each look pretty much the same as we looked coming in. The change in us, precipitated by our prayer, will become obvious in the coming week with its ups and downs, joys and sorrows, successes and frustrations. Whether or not we have experienced change as a result of our prayer, and whether or not that change can be sustained, will depend upon the renewing power of our daily prayer and daily service of others.
Have a Blessed Week!