October 23, 2022 – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/102322.cfm)
A story once told about two robbers were caught stealing. While trying to evade the chasing police and dogs, one of them said to the other: “Pray”. But the other snapped back in reply: “I don’t know how to pray”. Then, the first one persisted on: “Just pray any prayers you know, anyway, your God will listen”. The second wondered: “Any prayer will do?”. The first pushed: “Ya, any prayer”. So the second prayed the only prayer he knows, this way: “Bless us, O Lord, for these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from your goodness through Christ’s our Lord. Amen”.
Here, they are. Chased by the dogs and police. About to be apprehended and punished for stealing. And the only prayer, one could think of is the formula-Prayer before Meal. Well, nice words, but surely not the right & appropriate prayer for that very moment.
Prayer is our Chat-talk with God – our exchange of words with God. Praying then is more than just mumbling words from subscribed formula or -prayer-format, because it is the opportunity for us to be who we are before God and to express our hearts’ desires to our Father. Better then for us, in praying before God – to say what we mean, and mean what we say, than just reciting formulas which we don’t really mean and thus does not say who we really are and what we really mean before God. Meaning, pray your heart’s desire before the Lord in you own words.
Perhaps this is what Jesus is teaching us today about prayer. Through the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus teaches us that in prayer, God listens to us. God hears our cries and satisfies our heart’s desires. What is required of us, however, is our real selves humbly longing for Him – saying what we mean and meaning what we say to Him. Unlike the Pharisee, we should pray not for what we have done and what we have been doing, but pray instead in humility for what we need before God and for what God can do for us. Prayer is not our exhortations and exaltations of what we have done for God but our humble supplication before God’s presence for what He can do to us better & further in life.
We also hear in our gospel today, the simple humble prayer of the tax collector: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner”. This is the simple prayer-words that God as well as Jesus approves, for these words profoundly express who we humbly are before God, and what we mean, say, and desire from Him.
“Lord, Have Mercy on me a sinner”. Perhaps the simplest yet most effective prayer words in our Christian life are these words: “Lord, Have Mercy on us” “Ginoo, kaluy-I kami”, “Panginoon, Maawa ka sa Amin”. Junim, Jabirul Bepusoso.” These words, (traditionally also known as “Jesus prayer”) are not only prayed by the tax-collector in our gospel today, but also in the Scripture, as cried out in prayer by the ten lepers, the blind Lazarus, and others. These people were all healed, forgiven, and redeemed for they have prayed to Jesus: “Lord, Have Mercy.”
To pray then the Jesus prayer: “Lord, have mercy on me” means and says a lot. It reveals our very identity of who-I-am or who-we-are before God. First, it is a Cry for God’s Help, that is, it is our way of saying: “I need God’s help”. To ask for help today is considered as weakness and dependence. To pray then for God’s mercy is to rely not on our own but to depend on God’s strength and power. Second, it is a declaration of faith, i.e. our way of saying: “I believe in God’s will and I trust in God’s way”. In our world of distrust and unbelief, and toppled with individualism, to pray for God’s mercy is to believe and trust in an-other greater authority/power than ourselves. And lastly, to pray, “Lord, have mercy” is our humble obedience to God, i.e. it is our way of saying: Lord, I rest my case. I now listen to you. It’s now, not mine, but your will be done. Bahala na. Kabay pa. Siya Nawa.” This means that finally, after all has been said and done, prayer leads us into total respect and reverence to divine will & providence as well as peaceful silence before God’s presence.
Remember then that God rejects the prayer of self-righteous persons, but listens to the prayer of sinners who are aware of their inner poverty. God hears the prayer of the humble who are aware of how poor they are before God for “the Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
Perhaps we ask ourselves now, when was the last time we utter those words: “Lord, Have Mercy on Us” Panginoon, Maawa ka sa Amin; Ginoo, Kaluy-I kami; “Junim, chabirul bepusoso”? Did we say what we mean? Did we mean what we say? Are we saying those words, as a Cry for His Help in our lives, as declaration of our faith and trust in Him, and as our humble obedience to His plans and will for our lives? OR we said those words, like any prescribed formula-prayer inappropriately and without meaning it?
Before God then, to pray the simple words of Jesus prayer, said with meaning and humility – is but enough and appropriate at all times.
Whatsoever then happened, is happening and will happen at every moments of our lives, we own up our humble poverty before Him, and pray with full consent and intent the Jesus prayer: – “Lord, Have Mercy on Us sinners.” Amen.