Reflection: Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

 Mass is conducted in a mix of Cantonese and Mandarin

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering


[1st Reading – Ecc.35:15-17, 20-22; Ps.33; 2nd Reading – 2Tim.4:6-8,16-18; Gospel – Lk.18:9-14]

This week’s theme is “humility” and we are presented with a parable contrasting against “those people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else”.  Jesus is developing this lesson through a story, a parable. Stories and parables were quite often the chosen method of delivery by Jesus to simplify his teaching. In fact, this parable is one of Jesus’  simplest and most straightforward parables.

Jesus says that there were these two men who went to the Temple to pray.  So at face value we can say that what they were both there to do was good and worthy of praise …  Jesus also mentions that one of these two men was a Pharisee, while the other was a tax collector.  This affected their prayer and its effect in their life.

The Pharisee is someone who knows exactly what the scripture says about prayer!  He knows exactly what his relationship with God should be!  He also knows exactly what his relationship with his fellow believers and the rest of mankind should be!  Yet, he forgot that he himself is also part of this mankind … and his prayer goes beyond all expectations.  In fact, the Pharisee mentions also the tax collector praying beside him.  So, although the Pharisee went to pray and put himself in the presence of God, he (the Pharisee) placed himself and not God as the centre of attention …  Yet we are told that the Pharisee went home and was not at rights with God, even though he made use of a lot of words in his prayer and boasted about what he was doing and not what God can do for him!

In contrast to the Pharisee, the Tax Collector is someone who has always been looked down upon by members of his own community as a ‘sinner’, a ‘traitor’ and a ‘friend of the enemy’ – Rome for whom he was collecting taxes from his own compatriots.  Therefore he was someone who was very bitterly looked at from his own people.  Yet, in his prayer, although he too went in the presence of God to pray, we are told that he “stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast”.  He was very conscious of his own sin and this was enough for him to put him in the right attitude while praying.  In fact his only words were “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”  Jesus is saying that this man’s attitude was like those who in the Old (and New) Testament put themselves at the mercy of God!  We are told that this man went home again at rights with God because he was ready to humble himself and let God work in him!

This parable should be an eye opener for us today, especially to see if we are like those who exalt themselves or those who humble themselves.  Like the Pharisee, we know what scripture says and we also know what we are doing and how we are building our relationship with God. Like the Tax Collector, we also know that we are sinners and therefore we are in constant need of God and of His mercy …  With all this in mind, what is our own attitude in our own relationship with God and in our prayer?  Is our attention centred on God when we speak with him, or is it still centred on ourselves?  Are we conscious that we need his help because He is the only one that can give us strength to bear our weakness?

“Lord, although we feel the need to pray and have time reserved to speak with you, alas our prayers are often centred on ourselves.  Help us to learn how to pray and how to let ourselves trust totally in the providence of the Father in heaven, as you yourself did while on earth with us.  Thank you Lord!”

Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo )

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