BY: Fr. Johnbosco Obika.



1st: Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18 2nd: 2Tim. 4:6-8, 16-18 3rd: Luke 18:9-14

*In his presence*

Last Sunday, the Lord drew our attention to the importance of praying constantly without getting tired. Today, he wants to teach us how to behave in his presence. Only the humble wins favour in his sight. Not every prayer is acceptable in God’s eyes and not everyone who comes to his presence wins his favour. The first reading from the book of Sirach tells us the nature of God. “The Lord is the judge, and with him there is no partiality” (35:15). The reading goes further to tell us that “The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds and it will not rest until it reaches its goal; it will not desist until the Most High responds”.

*Not how far but how well*

In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector Jesus shows how God detests the prayer of the proud and exalts the humble. Both were in the presence of God. Both believed in God, both prayed. However, both didn’t go home the same way. The Pharisee prayed thus before God: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, the rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’”. The Pharisees were proud elites of the Jewish community. Because of their strict observance of the moral law and discipline, they regarded others as sinners and unworthy. Obviously, they made serious effort and even went extra mile in keeping the requirements of the law. The law prescribed only one compulsory fasting, i.e. on the day of Atonement but this man fasted twice a week probably in the market place to attract a good audience. In Numbers 18:21 and Deut 14:22, the Levites were to receive a tithe of a man’s produce. But this man tithed the tenth of all his income. So when he said he was not like the tax collector he was not joking about it.

*Hunger for God in every sinner*

On the other side, the tax collector, “standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”. This man did not mince words calling himself a sinner. He meant it. Tax collectors because they worked for pagan Roman empire mixed with gentiles, and handled unclean money, were regarded as having low moral standards; are public sinners and public enemies too. More so, they extort and oppress people in carrying out their jobs. But deep in their heart was a longing for righteousness and the mercy of God. This longing pushed this poor tax collector to seek the mercy of God in self abasement and with a humble contrite heart which God did not spurn (Psalm 51)

*The door mercy and grace*

As part of the activities marking his birthday, he was to grant amnesty to one prisoner. As he was walking around the cells, he was asking the inmates what brought them to the prison. They were all telling the tales of how innocent they were. However, one of the convicted criminals said that he was not innocent, that he was guilty of the crime he was convicted of. The king ordered the warders to release this only guilty criminal before he corrupts the the other innocent prisoners.
When we are so full of ourselves there will no room for the grace and mercy.

*Empty hearts, filled pews*

Obviously, self righteousness and hypocrisy has corroded the heart of many Christians. False sense of worth and ego have stolen the souls of most of our brethren in the church. Spirituality is replaced with religiosity. The paradox of the most religious country in the world is that pews are filled up but hearts are empty.

*Why we go to church*

Let us point out why we go to church as raised in this parable. We go to church to pray and not to pose. No one who is proud can pray. No one who looks down on others can pray. The best form of prayer is the recognition of the holiness of God and our own sinfulness. The cognizance of our weakness is the strength of our character. 1. We go to church to seek the mercy of God and not to score ourselves like the Pharisee did. 2. Most importantly we go to church to attain salvation. Pride cannot save us, only humility can. Paul was a Pharisee. But his proud pharisaic life could not save him. Today, he tells us in the second reading that he is awaiting the crown of glory after running the good race after the example of Christ the ideal example of humility who humbled himself even to accepting death on a cross. When Christ comes with his crown of glory to judge, judgment will favour the humble who will be exalted. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time”. (1 Peter 5:6). HAPPY SUNDAY

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