October 27, 2019 — Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
One of the wonderful aspects of stewardship spirituality is its balanced approach to all areas of life. We see this balance in play as we continue to explore the Pillar of Prayer. As stewards, aware of our total dependence on God for everything, we come to Him in awe and gratitude. At the same time, we approach God with an awareness of the great dignity He has given us, creating us in His own image and likeness and calling us to join Him in the work of advancing His kingdom.
In last week’s readings we were encouraged to remain persistent and constant in our prayer life. Today we focus on the proper attitude of a steward at prayer.
The first reading, from the Book of Sirach, gives us the confidence to turn to God with all our needs assuring us that “the Lord is a God of justice, who knows no favorites. Though not unduly partial toward the weak, yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.” Whether rich and powerful or poor and obscure, our loving Father delights in hearing from all of His children. We are all His favorites!
But we learn that a particular attitude in our approach to prayer will make our prayer lives more effective: “the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal.” When we pray with a humble attitude, God will respond.
In today’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus Himself gives further instruction on the humble attitude we must have as we approach God in prayer as He tells a parable of two praying men. One is a Pharisee, a man with respected status, theological training and all the right credentials. He marches right up to the front of the temple to speak a prayer “to himself,” thanking God for making him just a little bit superior to everyone else!
The other man is a tax collector, known by all those of his day to be a cheater and a sell-out to his fellow Jews. In contrast to the Pharisee, he stands near the back and cries out to God in a simple and honest way: “Be merciful to me a sinner.”
Jesus tells us that it is the tax collector — and not the Pharisee — who leaves the temple justified. Why?
The Pharisee was full of self as he approached God. He felt no real need for God as he rattled off his resume of good works and spiritual practices. He was simply going through the motions of prayer. His lack of humility prevented him from entering into a real dialogue with the Father. He was not transformed by his time of prayer because he was so full of himself that He left God no space to enter in.
The tax collector, by contrast, emptied himself as he approached God. He recognized who he truly was (a sinner) and asked simply for mercy, leaving all the rest up to God. This is the kind of attitude that God can work with! This is how a good steward prays — with trust, with complete openness to God’s will, with a listening mind and heart, ready to serve as God leads.
The good steward knows he needs God, and that God has chosen to need him in advancing the Kingdom. His prayers pierce the clouds and God is glorified!