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Friday, October 25, 2013



Luke 18:9-14

         As the Gospel of Prayer,  St. Luke’s Gospel does not just show us Jesus as a pray-er (a person who prays) but also teaches us many things about prayer.  In today’s parable we reflect on the disposition of prayer in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.

         For the Jews, prayer is something personal and private while worship is communal and public.    Worship was usually done in the temple at 9:00am and at 3:00pm.   The parable must be in the context of a public worship when the two characters came to the temple at the same time to pray.  The prayer of the Pharisee was a litany of his good works which gives us a glimpse of his personal life which was extraordinarily devout.  A Jew fasted only once a year during the Day of Atonement but this Pharisee fasted twice a week.  A Jew was required to pay temple tax only on certain things but this Pharisee paid a tenth of all his income.   In the eyes of Jewish law, this Pharisee was indeed very pious.   On the other hand a Publican was a public sinner and was considered a traitor to the Israelites because he was working on behalf of the Roman Empire.   Because he had to bid and pay a large sum to acquire his job, he had to exact higher taxes against his fellow Jews to get back his investment plus with staggering interest.

         Let’s take a look at the manner of their praying:  the Pharisee stood up, praised himself and lambasted the Publican.  The Publican standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, beat his breast saying “O God be merciful to me, a sinner.”  Jesus concluded the parable by saying that the Publican went home reconciled with God but not the Pharisee.   
        The parable gives us an introspection of our personal prayer and public worship.  In our personal prayer, it is not bad to offer to God our acts of piety and all the good works we have done as long as we don’t use them to boast ourselves before God.  When we pray, we praise God not ourselves otherwise we become self-centered and our prayers are abominable.  The Pharisee’s biggest fault was not only the litany of his piety but when he judged himself better and holier than the Publican.  When we pray like the Publican, we acknowledge our nothingness before God.  The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar calls it un-selfing!  It is in our self-emptying that God is deeply moved as the first reading from Sirach reminds us: “the prayer of the humble pierces the clouds…”

         Is our public worship a display of pharisaical pomposity and arrogance?   As members of our worshiping congregation do we feel proud as if we are pious and devout? Or do we carry the humility of the publican as we un-self ourselves and be filled with the limitless mercy of God.    
        If our prayer and liturgy do not touch the heart of God, it is because we and our congregation still need the prayer of the publican….


  1. Father, agree that our prayers should be humble and always praising and thanking God for all the wondrous blessings He continues to pur on us. Prayers also should not always be asking God for favors or answers to ORAYERS. He knows all. He knows our needs so be content and confident that He will take care of us. Neil's Mabalos sa beautiful reflection. Ate L

  2. Ate Lolit, what a privilege that our prayer is just one breath away from God.....