Close your eyes for a moment and make a picture of the two men in the Temple. Now recite the words of the parable…slowly.
Very easy to picture the scene. We know this reflection of Jesus well. Let the picture tell the story for a minute or so. What emerges from the experience?
Firstly, they went to the Temple. Points scored. But…
Secondly, did they pray?
To me, it seems that one was telling God, with an eye on the other, to make sure that both God and the man heard what he was saying and received the message, “I am pretty good but as for you…”
The mind then moves to the other human being. I have to go searching… He seems a long way away. As if not worthy to be in the Temple, his eyes are lowered, he beats his breast, and not looking in any direction, he cries out for mercy.
It reminds me of that line from Pope Francis, “I am a sinner upon whom the Lord has turned his gaze!”
Luke’s Gospel has many themes; his delight in showing Jesus’s rapport with women is one. Another is the seeming ongoing attempt to offer conversion to the tax collectors (and sinners) and to the Pharisees (and scribes and lawyers). The former are seen to be open to the Prophet: the latter, self-satisfied and assured. They had no need of conversation so why should they listen to the Prophet, let alone to God!
Last week we were encouraged to pray and to pray frequently.
This week we are reminded that in our prayer we need to be truthful and sincere.
However you pray, pray.
Whenever you pray, be truthful and sincere.
As the first reading reminded us,
The Lord “does not ignore the orphan’s supplication, nor the widow’s as she pours out her story…
The humble person’ s prayer pierces the clouds”.
Keep praying…but be open for the message.