We often do pray, ‘Lord, hear our prayer’. While we do this or any prayer, the questions we need to ask ourselves are, are we poor enough that the Lord may hear us? Have we at any time been wronged in such a way as to prompt the Lord to listen? Can we claim to be acceptable to the Lord that our prayers could reach the clouds, and humble enough to pierce the clouds? Are we ready to claim the crown of righteousness from the Lord? Have we ever assumed the mind set of the tax collector to honestly pray, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” These are the question for us to ponder from today’s three readings.
We must think how far we are also willing to listen to such prayers made to us either by words, gestures, mere presence or even by coming to know about situations? All questions above are invitations to us to enter into the mind set or design of God. Of the two praying in the temple, the Pharisee knew what he had, his wealth, his generosity to God, that he was not like “thieves, rogues, adulterers or even like this tax collector”. However, he did not know what he was before God, a proud, boastful, self-justifying and inconsiderate person and not necessarily one in need of God.
The other man knew who he was, a tax collector and by the very fact a sinner and one looking for the mercy of God and in need of God. Though he knew that he was a sinner, still he was also searching for God’s mercy to get out of his sinfulness. The Pharisee was reasonably rich and learned; but from the presence of God he returned empty-handed and with deepened spiritual poverty. The tax collector might have come immensely rich with material possessions but also with a yearning for God and therefore, poured out his spirit, and returned from the presence of God enriched with the total acceptance by God, experiencing in his inner self the pouring out of God’s mercy on him. The wealth he carried with him from God was beyond all measurement.
Last week we reflected on the necessity of faith and trust in God while we pray, which are very much visible in the tax collector’s prayer today. Hence our reflection today is about the attitude toward God and, as a consequence, our attitude towards the children of God on earth, our sisters and brothers.