The Gospel Today
Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week,
and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Reflection (Sem. John Paul Adia):
Self-awareness requires knowing what we are doing and aligning it with our own mind and feeling. I believe that this is also true to prayer. I should be aware of what I am praying or else I will end up merely murmuring words. We are very fortunate that we have formula prayers that can lead us to a deeper level of praying, but what is my attitude towards my prayer?
In the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. In the context of prayer, it is true that whatever our hearts desire seems to be the content of our prayer. If I have been craving for material things then most probably I will be praying for them. But if I am reflecting on my way of life and realize the goodness of God to me despite my own sinfulness and even my weaknesses then I will be praying for His mercy. But I see this as too ideal that I need to reach the depth of my heart in order for me to be in this level of prayer. Am I ready for such a challenge in my prayer life?
Prayer is a way of communicating with God. But this is not like a supernatural thing that God will meet me face to face. Rather, it is something that moves me to satisfy this Holy longing for my creator who sustains me throughout the day.
I was raised with great devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help and of course, with faithfulness to the common prayers. My mother would always remind us of the graces that we received from God despite the difficulties that we faced. But as time passed, prayer seemed to be difficult to sustain. My priority when I was a little boy was to play. And indeed, this was a typical attitude during play age. It started out as if I needed to pray because my mother would scold me and my sister was at stake if she will not be able to gather us before the time of prayer. At this stage, prayer was a hindrance to my “wants.”
When I grew older, things changed. During high school, prayer was a requirement. There was my teacher who was looking after us if we were praying or not. When I was in college, prayer was a source of miracle. Cram now then pray later seemed to be my attitude towards prayer. When things seemed to be too impossible for my effort, then, that would be the time that I would pray. It was only when I was already working that I really appreciated praying. Everyday I would allot time to visit the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and prayed there for thirty minutes at most.
The Gospel for tomorrow led me to a reflection on my attitude towards prayer. From a routine it became part of my daily activities, and now that I am in the seminary, I am invited to make it as part of my life. To integrate it is to make my life itself a prayer. At this point, prayer for me is offering all things to God. We praise Him, we share our sorrows and sufferings, and our joys to Him. And if at this point in my formation I am not able to do things for the greater glory of God, then this is an indication that I am going back to myself, towards self-love, or going back to material things and make them my idols. Living a life of prayer requires good deeds and confession from my sinfulness. But if it will remain in self-love then I will be like the Pharisee who can never transcend himself. Sinner as I am, I thank God for allowing me to spend an intimate moment with Him through prayer, unworthy as I am, God looks to my heart as I open it up to Him in the moment that I am longing for His presence. May I live out this life of prayer through the help of God. Amen.