October 23, 2022
I want to return to the question that ended our Gospel last Sunday: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” “¿Creen que encontrará fe sobre la tierra?”
Because we have been made in the image and likeness of God, there will always be faith! As human beings, the gift of faith lives in each one of us. We are a gift from God to be a child of God. That is what faith is all about. It is part of our natural intuition. As far as God is concerned, I am exactly as special as everyone else on the planet. And we all have equal access. “The Lord is a God of justice who knows no favorites” (Sirach 35:15).
Prayer, praying, prayerfulness is a word that is more than a moment or even words. It is a word that tries to describe our creative relationship with God. Prayer is not static. It signifies the life and spirit-giving-energy of our relationship with God.
Are our prayers like hot air, a spoken word that disappears like air, or a thought, or reflection that disappears from our memory? I would describe prayer or praying as an awareness of a presence in my heart of hearts, the presence of someone whom I call God.
It is not the experience of the Pharisee who speaks to himself about how good and perfect he sees himself to be – he is so good that he is not even human. It seems that the Pharisee has no connection to anyone but himself. His prayer is not a prayer. It is a monologue that praises himself.
The tax collector seems to know how far away he is from God, very honest, caught in a trap of sinfulness, treating people by bribing people and abusing his public office. The tax collector seems to be able to understand who he was and what he needed: “O, God, he says, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
While the Pharisee did nothing that hurt anyone, he lived in a very enclosed and selfish world. The tax collector who treated people in a brutal fashion, emasculating and impoverishing others, does not seem to desire to change. “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner” – was that a real prayer, a real wish, a real desire to change up his life?
Prayer and prayerfulness invite radical honesty. Genuine prayer opens us to our real deficiencies, to the needs of a larger world, to want to do something for others, and not just for ourselves.
Prayer and prayerfulness help us to enter into a loving relationship with God that rubs off on our relationship with others. Prayer is not a bulletin board about ourselves for God to remember.
The Pharisee does not express any love for God, nor asks God to enter more fully into his life. The Pharisee never admits that he is dependent on God.
The tax collector seems to be in turmoil about his life and admits that he is not in a right relationship with God nor anyone else.
Prayer invites us to a deep truthfulness and to seek God’s love in our lives.
The more we pray or become more prayerful, more soulful, the more Jesus encourages us to [self-reflect], and to experience the consequences of living a life that has very little God in it.
Prayer, being prayerful, helps us to know how much we need to be in God’s life and God in ours. There is a result from being more prayerful. Our values and what is important change and the goodness of God in us begins to show and grow.
Where does God want us to go with our lives? How does God want us to get there? We have until the end of our lives to figure that out.
Our second reading shows us St. Paul at the end of his life. He could feel that his life was soon going to end, “I have competed well,” he wrote. “I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”
What really depressed him was the fact that all his friends and fellow members of his community abandoned him after his last arrest. While he says, “May it not be held against them,” he felt and knew “that the Lord stood by me and gave me strength.” He was rescued from the Lion’s mouth one last time. He believed that the Lord would soon “bring him safe to his heavenly kingdom.”
Prayer develops trust, a calmness, and a certainty about how everything will end.
Prayer and prayerfulness are not about an answer or an outcome. It is about the atmosphere of our lives; it is about the security of our future; it is about the full answer to all our prayers – the eternal life to come!
“The one who serves God willingly is heard. Their petition reaches the clouds. It does not rest until it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds” (Sirach 35:17). That we feel God’s presence is the answer to our prayers.