THEME: Humble and Contrite Prayer.

BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches


Luke 18:9-14

A humble heart is truly beautiful in the eyes of God. The Psalm says, “A humble, contrite heart, O God, You will not spurn.”

This is what we must always remind ourselves of every time we come to Mass. We need to humble ourselves for we come before the presence of God. In fact, the entire sacred celebration of the Mass is suffused with the spirit of humility. It starts with the Penitential Rite. The priest invites us to have the right disposition: “Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.” The readings usually remind us of God’s mighty deeds and of man’s helplessness and sinfulness. These are calls to repentance and conversion. In the Prayers of the Faithful we express all our needs, humbly acknowledging and imploring God’s merciful providence. And just before receiving Holy Communion we say, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”

Nowadays, kneeling is becoming less popular. Pope Benedict XVI said: “The man who learns to believe learns also to kneel, and a faith or liturgy no longer familiar with kneeling is sick to the core (The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 194). Kneeling is the most vivid expression of humility in worship. St. John Vianney urges us to kneel during Mass: “With what humility should we assist at Mass, if we realized that our guardian angel was kneeling beside us, prostrate before the majesty of God!”
Thus, we are encouraged to kneel during Consecration, the moment when bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, and most especially in Holy Communion, to express our sublime humility as we adore and worship the Lord before receiving His Sacred Body.

In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus gives us a lesson on the need to have a humble disposition especially when we worship God. He uses the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector as a warning so that we may avoid the trap of proud people “who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.”

The Pharisee in the Gospel was a good and highly respected man. He was a very devout believer who committed himself to a life of regular prayer and observance of God’s laws. But when he prayed in the Temple, he did not enjoy the favor of God. The fatal mistake of the prayer of the Pharisee is his lack of humility. He did not pray, actually. He just boasted before God of his many accomplishments and of how good he was. He even judged and condemned others. Although he was a very good man, he was far from God.

Pride is the worst capital sin, the root of all sins. And when pride enters the spiritual life, it becomes the worst of all. It is bad to boast about our money, intelligence and social status. But it is much worse to boast about our own holiness and righteousness. This is called spiritual pride. Jesus has the harshest words against such people, condemning the holier-than-thou attitude of the Jewish leaders of His time. Thus, St. Vincent de Paul gives this advice: “You must ask God to give you power to fight against the sin of pride which is your greatest enemy – the root of all that is evil, and the failure of all that is good. For God resists the proud.”

The tax collector, on the other hand, was a public sinner. He was the most hated man in the community for being a traitor to the Jewish people and dishonest in his conduct. But his prayer was more pleasing to God. He had the right disposition before God. He acknowledged the truth – that he was a great sinner – and so he dared not approach the altar. From a distance, he just bowed his head and said: “O, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” He trusted not in himself or in anything he had done but only in God’s mercy. In his humility, he came to know the truth that God is full of mercy and love. As Blessed Giles of Assisi said: “No man can attain to the knowledge of God but by humility. The way to mount high is to descend.”

The way to true holiness is humility. It is the most basic foundation of all Christian virtues. It is impossible to be holy without humility. All the saints, without exception, were profoundly humble persons. As one comes closer to God, the True Light, the more clearly he sees his own unworthiness and sinfulness. The prayer of the tax collector is the same prayer that the saints utter over and over again: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” That is why the saints, despite their avowed holiness of life, make it a point to come to the sacrament of Confession almost every day.

This, then, leads us to fully appreciate the value of regular and frequent Confession. St. Isidore of Seville said: “Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin. All hope consists in confession. In confession there is a chance for mercy. Believe it firmly. Do not doubt, do not hesitate, never despair of the mercy of God. Hope and have confidence in confession.” The sacrament of Confession truly helps us grow in the depths of humility and in the heights of holiness.

As we come once again before God’s presence in this Holy Sacrifice, let us bow our heads in humble acknowledgement of our unworthiness and sinfulness. May the Lord Jesus, who humbled Himself on the cross, fill us with the grace of humility so that we may become truly pleasing and beautiful in the eyes of God.

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

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