October 23, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday Readings: Sirach 35:12-14,16-18, 2Timothy 4:6-8,16-18 & Luke 18:9-14
Today the Lord teaches us about our relationship with God as expressed in prayer. The Scriptures constantly remind us of the particular preference of God for the poor, the orphan, and the widow. These three groups are mentioned several times as specially favored by God. God is decisively on their side because they are weak and vulnerable, needing help and support. In the first reading today, we heard how the Prophet Ezekiel reiterates this attitude of compassion toward God.
The prophet also reminds us of the need to pray with humility and that the prayers of the humble will pierce the clouds. Such earnest and humble prayers from the heart of the lowly will be heard. See the certainty of the use of the word ‘until’.
Paul, writing to Timothy, makes a prayer of surrender to God and submits to him all that he has been able to do: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” What a report card he has to submit before God. But more than what he did for the Lord, what comes out shining in Paul’s words is his firm faith and conviction that the Lord is on his side, that he will give him strength and rescue him in the day of evil and bring him to his heavily populated kingdom. I wish we could exude such confidence and such firm faith!
The gospel continues the theme of prayer. Through the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Jesus cautions against self-righteousness and false piety. The Pharisee was simply praising himself, narrating his achievements, while the tax collector, standing far off, with eyes down, beating his breast, prayed for mercy. He was genuinely humble and repentant. He recognized his need for God’s mercy. God lavishes blessings on the humble. True prayer is praising God, and it consists of our ability to recognize God’s mighty deeds. Like Mother Mary, we can say: "The Almighty has done great things for me."
We are in the age of "selfies," where people frequently photograph themselves and send them to others. We are trying to change our looks, appearance, and even gender. Many people have a problem with their identity, with their appearance. This is due to a lack of self-esteem and affirmation. We fail to recognize our actual worth as God’s loving children.
We are sometimes so obsessed with ourselves that we are in a kind of self-adulation, admiring ourselves and giving credit to ourselves for our achievements. This kind of false ego leads us and guides many of our actions. In the lives of such people, there is no place for God. Prayer is not a public relations exercise where we try to showcase our achievements before God, though he does not know. Prayer is simply our submission before God.
Jesus, in the story today, questions the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who looked down on others. In the public eye, the Pharisee is a god-fearing, righteous person, while the tax collectors are considered enemies of the people, unrighteous, unjust extortioners. That is why even Jesus was accused of keeping the company of tax collectors and sinners and eating with them. The Lord is reminding us that even in the worst of us, there is goodness, and in even the best of us, there will be faults and mistakes.
Each of us has a Pharisee, a sense of self-righteousness, of looking down on others and thinking we are better than others. Let us pray. Let us come to the Lord in prayer. Let us purge the Pharisees out of us. Let us recognize the need for humility, faith, and perseverance when we cry out to God in prayer. We can be confident that the Lord will surely hear our prayers.
How sincere am I when I come before the Lord?
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.