Luke 18:9-14 Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’ _____________________________________________________________________________________________
The foundation stone of all holiness is humility. It is an interior attitude that is hard to cultivate and hard to hide where it exists. Humble people are interested in you, have time for you and respect you. A few great people have this gift of elevating others in their presence. Its opposite number is, of course, pride. Pride is equally hard to hide and even harder to dislodge. It is the original sin, the root of all our sin. The one who is full of himself behaves differently to the one who has room in his heart for God and for others. Our prayer and our attitude in prayer and to prayer reveals a lot about ourselves and in prayer God is revealed to us.
There is seldom a clear cut difference as in the two profiles or caricatures we find in today’s scriptures. There is humility in all who come to worship God otherwise we wouldn’t be here. There is also the stubborn pride that has not been dealt with in all of us, the pharisaism of the publican. We like to have our merits and talents noticed, if only by God. Saint Thomas More said, on going to prayer, ‘take from me all vainglorious minds’. There is also the pharisaism of those who don’t come to prayer. How often have you heard the boasts of the immature of how long it’s been since they’ve been to mass or to the sacraments. How often we hear or read of the righteousness of those who consider themselves above and beyond what they see as the failures of religion. ‘I’m an atheist thank God’.
The prayer which comes from the humble heart will pierce the clouds. The Lord, we are told, is no respecter of personages. Only faith and humility of heart impress God. God listens to those who serve and to those who approach in need. God delivers judgement and justice in good time. The prayer of the repentant sinner calls for answer more insistently than the righteous litany of the proud-hearted. The Pharisee said his prayer to himself.
Set out to pray with a humble heart. Empty your heart and your hands of sin and wrongdoing and approach God with confidence and self-respect. God listens to those whom the world ignores. No one is shut out. God is full of mercy, pouring forgiveness out generously to those who ask. Accept the invitation. Pray from a humble heart and praise God at all times and in all circumstances. You will go home at rights with God and you will be exalted in fulfillment of the promise of the Gospel.