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Humble Like a Real Sinner
Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity–greedy, dishonest, adulterous–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to Heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, after listening to your word, I quiet my heart before you. Give me the grace to be able to hear what you have to say to me. Let me be open to honestly encountering you in these words of the Gospel, to facing up to them as I really am. Make me ready for change. I love you and love that you are working in my life. I am grateful for what you want to do in me through this moment of prayer. Now I quietly calm my heart and my thoughts. Speak to me.
- Convinced of Their Own Righteousness: “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness.” Before we reflect on another word, let us ask ourselves if Jesus is speaking to us! Are we convinced of our own righteousness? Perhaps because we have overcome some serious sin in our lives, we take pride in our A+ behavior. Beware! We can never forget that without God we can do nothing (John 15:5). If we exalt ourselves, even subconsciously, Our Lord reminds us that we will be humbled, for our own spiritual good.
- Be Merciful to Me, a Sinner: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The “Jesus Prayer,” as it is known, became a tradition in the Eastern Christian Churches and “combines the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 with the cry of the publican and the blind men begging for light. By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior’s mercy” (CCC 267). By praying these lines of Scripture, we accept the need we have for divine mercy, embrace it, and beg for an ever-increasing understanding of God’s love for us. To say “have mercy on me, a sinner” is to surrender ourselves, to let ourselves be enveloped in the love of God, as in an ocean.
- Whoever Humbles Himself Will Be Exalted: There is no better example of one who humbled himself and was exalted than Jesus Christ himself. He condescended to become incarnate among man; lived for thirty years in anonymity; surrounded himself for three years by fishermen and tax collectors; and submitted himself to ridicule, torture, and crucifixion, all for the love of souls. “Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2: 8-11). Jesus asks us through this parable to imitate his humility, acknowledging that “Man is a beggar before God” (CCC 2559). In the words of St. Padre Pio, “As gifts increase in you, let your humility grow, for you must consider that everything is given to you on loan.”
Conversing with Christ: Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner! Help me to follow you on the way to the cross. I want to forget myself and love others with a heart full of your grace.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will remember to pray the Jesus prayer several times: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
For Further Reflection: “Jesus”: The Shortest, Simplest, and Most Powerful Prayer in the World by Peter Kreeft.
Fr. Adam Zettel, LC, was ordained in 2017 and worked for three years as a high school chaplain in Dallas, Texas. Now he resides in Oakville, Ontario, serving youth and young adults.