Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Reflections for the 1st Week of Easter, Part 2

Thursday – Peace Be with You

“Peace be with you.” At that particular moment, the disciples were feeling many things, but peace wasn't one of them. Jesus was standing before them. Even though the door was locked, even though He had died on the cross, even though He was supposed to be buried in a cold stone tomb, there He was, right there in the room with them.

Was He a ghost? Jesus was quick to assure them otherwise. They could see He still had a real body. He even showed them His wounds and then proceeded to eat a piece of baked fish.

“Why are you troubled?” He asked. “And why do questions arise in your hearts?” Then He opened their minds so they could understand everything that was written about Him in the Scriptures. It was quite an explosion of insight and meaning. Suddenly everything they ever knew about their faith made sense in new and amazing ways. Jesus ended by reminding them that He was the Messiah Who was sent to suffer and die for the forgiveness of sins, and now He had risen, just as He said He would.

Moreover, He had a mission for them. They were to be His witnesses, proclaiming the message of salvation to the very ends of the earth. For that they would need peace, a peace beyond all understanding, a peace that would carry them through the most difficult times, a peace that would create harmony both within them and among them, a peace that would make them whole.

Friday – Rejected Stone to Cornerstone

“The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” You builders, Peter told the Jewish leaders, have turned your backs on the Stone God gave you, the Stone upon Whom you should be building a deeper faith, a renewed hope, a stronger love, and a more meaningful life, the Stone that will stand firm throughout eternity.

This Stone has become the cornerstone, the foundation stone of a new Church that will spread throughout the whole world. This Stone marks a new covenant, a new family of God, a new unity between people of all nations, who will join together to form a new building of living stones. Only those united to this Stone will receive the gift of salvation.

But the builders, those who were supposed to be preparing the way for the Stone, didn't recognize Him. They didn't listen to His words or pay attention to the signs He performed. They had their own ideas about what their savior should be like, and this One just didn't fit the picture. So the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus. They turned their backs on the Stone God provided and sought one elsewhere. But they would never find another cornerstone. There is only the Risen One.

Saturday – Impossible Not to Speak

When Peter and John healed the crippled man, the Jewish leaders were shaken. They knew that these ordinary men had been companions of Jesus of Nazareth, but they didn't expect them to hang around after their leader had been crucified. But here they were, healing people who had no business being healed and speaking a message they had no business speaking.

The Jews would have preferred to get rid of them right off, but they couldn't. The people were too riled up by the healing and would rebel if their leaders did or said anything to downplay it. There was really only one thing to do. They would tell these simple fishermen to stop speaking in that Name, to just keep their mouths shut and mind their own business.

Much to the Jews' surprise, however, Peter and John politely but firmly declined. “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges,” they said. “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”

They would not stop talking about Jesus. They would not stop spreading the Gospel of salvation. They would not stop allowing the power of God to course through them and perform miracles. They would not stop carrying out the commission that Jesus had given them.

The Jews hardly knew how to respond to such open and honest defiance. They threatened Peter and John a bit more, but then they had to let them go. As they watched the two walk away, they had an uncomfortable sort of feeling that they had not seen the last of them.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Reflections for the 1st Week of Easter, Part 1

Monday – My Portion and My Cup

The Lord is “my allotted portion and my cup.” He is my food and drink. In the Eucharist, I receive Him, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, His very Self under the appearance of bread and wine. He provides me with every spiritual nutrient that I need to survive and to grow.

He is my inheritance, the One Who gives meaning to everything in my life, the One Who stands as everything that I look forward to in eternity.

He holds me fast in His love, never letting go, always encouraging, always offering His grace, always holding out forgiveness, always drawing me back when I stray. He speaks His counsel in my ear; He whispers His secrets into my heart. He protects me from my enemies and leads me along secure paths. He fills me with confidence and joy, and I trust that one day He will bring me home to Heaven where He will be all in all.

Tuesday – Woman, Why Are You Weeping?

“Woman, why are you weeping?” The angels know something Mary Magdalene does not. Jesus is not dead. He is very much alive. They are merely examining the place where He once lay and reflecting on the wonders of God's triumph over sin and death.

Mary, however, believes that someone has taken her Lord's body and put Him somewhere else. She just wants Him back so she can anoint His body and show Him the respect He deserves. She doesn't realize that her weeping will soon turn into rejoicing.

“Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary hears these words a second time, followed by “Whom are you looking for?” She doesn't recognize the Speaker, at least not at first. She is so intent upon finding her Lord that she doesn't realize that He is standing right in front of her. “Sir, if you carried Him away, tell me where you laid Him,” she begs, “and I will take Him.”

Then one word changes everything. “Mary,” He says. Something leaps in Mary's heart and clicks in her mind. Now she knows. Now she sees. “Rabbouni,” she cries as she falls at Jesus' feet.

He looks at her tenderly as He tells her not to hold onto Him. Things are changing. He is going to the Father, but that does not mean He is leaving her. She will have to adjust to a new way of meeting Him, a new type of relationship, one that will be different but even more intimate.

Mary's tears dry quickly. Jesus tells her to go to the others with a message, so she obeys with joy. Her Jesus is alive. He is alive, and she has seen Him. He is alive, and she has found much more than she had ever hoped.

Wednesday – A Life Changed in an Instant

The man had never walked. Crippled since birth, he begged alms at the Temple gate each day just to get enough to eat.

On a day that began just like any other, the man noticed two men about to go through the gate and into the Temple. They looked rather poor, but there was something different about them. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but these two seemed joyful, almost like they were walking on air. He asked them for alms.

The two turned to look at him, and the man felt their gaze pierce into his depths. “Look at us,” they said. The man raised his head, hoping for a few coins. Then one of them spoke in a way he never expected: “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”

The man felt someone take his hand and begin to raise him up. He leaped to his feet. His legs grew strong and firm beneath him, and almost before he realized it, he was standing. Standing! He had never stood before. He took a couple hesitant steps and then jumped into the air. He was walking! Actually walking! Dancing even!

The two men stood back, watching and smiling. The man didn't know what to say to them, how to thank them. His life had changed in an instant. Now he wanted to know more about this Jesus Christ the Nazorean.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Reflections for Holy Week, Part 2

Thursday – Remembrance

After Jesus gives His Body and Blood to His apostles, He says, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” The Greek word for remembrance here is anamnésis. It doesn't mean a simple recalling of the past. It's something much, much more.

Anamnésis refers to the kind of liturgical remembrance that makes an event present so that people of all times and places may participate in it intimately and receive its benefits.

The Jews remembered the Passover in this way. Through their liturgical celebration, they made present the events of the first Passover and thereby took an active part in the salvation God provided through it.

We do the same at every Mass. In the Eucharist, Jesus becomes really present for us, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. We remember His Paschal sacrifice on the cross, which began at the Last Supper and now stands outside time, and it is made present that we may participate in it and receive the benefits of salvation that Jesus merited for the whole world. Through anamnésis we stand at the foot of the Cross as we truly receive our Savior into our bodies and our hearts.

When Jesus says “Do this in remembrance of Me” then, He means it in a rich, deep way that is much more than merely looking back but rather diving into the mystery of our redemption.

Friday – Jesus on the Cross

On this Good Friday, take some time to meditate on Jesus on the cross. Really picture Him. Notice His many wounds. Reflect on His suffering. Listen to His words.

Place yourself at the foot of Jesus' cross. What do you have to say to Him? He is on that cross for your sake. He is dying to take away your sins and bring you salvation. He is suffering now on earth that you might rejoice forever in Heaven.

And He does it all willingly and with great love. In fact, if you were the only person in the whole world who needed to be saved, Jesus would do just what He did: die for you. He loves you that much.

On this Good Friday, be sure to remember and to thank Him.

Saturday – Waiting

The stone has been rolled in front of the tomb. All is silent. The whole world seems to be holding its breath, waiting for something. It doesn't know what.

The disciples weep through the sabbath, mourning the horrendous death of the One they thought would save them. Yet they are waiting, too. There's a tension in the air. They can sense it, but they don't understand it.

Mother Mary is also waiting, but she knows what she's waiting for. Even though her grief at the death of her Son was almost unbearable, she believes what He told her. She believes that death cannot hold Him, that He will rise again on the third day.

We, too, are waiting, and like Mary, we know what we await: the joy of Easter. In these quiet hours of waiting, then, we should rest in God, silent, meditative, grateful, for in a little while, we shall see His glory.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Reflections for Holy Week, Part 1

Monday – Bruised Reeds and Smoldering Wicks

In today's first reading from the prophet Isaiah, we hear that the Suffering Servant upon whom the Spirit of God will rest and whom God will send to bring justice upon the earth will be a gentle soul. He will not cry out in anger or shout in the streets. Nor will he break bruised reeds or snuff out smoldering wicks.

Instead, the prophet implies, this Servant will deliver his message in the depths of people's hearts, with peace and quiet love. He will deal tenderly with the broken and crushed, mending them rather than snapping them. He will strive to preserve even the slightest spark of spiritual life, the tiniest glow of interior fire, the most minute hint of virtue.

This Servant, of course, is Jesus, and although Isaiah wouldn't have known it at the time, the Holy Spirit Who was speaking through the prophet definitely did. That's why Isaiah was able to paint such an accurate portrait of our Lord as the One Who seeks the lost, whispers His love in the depths of a soul, heals the cracked and shattered, sustains the weak, and longs to enkindle a bright fire in every human heart.

Tuesday – Betrayal

“What you are going to do, do quickly.” Imagine the anguish in Jesus' heart as He spoke those words to Judas. Jesus loved the man sitting before Him. Judas had been His disciple from the beginning, and Jesus had always known that he would be the one to betray Him. But when it came right down to it, when it was time for the betrayal to actually happen, Jesus' heat must have nearly broken.

Were there tears in Jesus' eyes as He watched Judas leave? Did He want to call out and stop him, to convince him somehow not to do what he planned? Did He wonder if there was any hope left at all for the man He still considered a friend?

But Jesus let Judas go. He realized that Judas had made his decision. God had given him free will just like every other human being, and he chose to turn away from God and accept the enemy that had entered into him. He paved the way for his own downfall. Whether out of greed or disillusionment or for some other motive, Judas was ready and willing to betray Jesus.

What Judas didn't know, however, was that God would bring good even out of this most horrible act, a good like the world had never seen before, indeed a victory over sin and death that would bring salvation to the whole world.

Wednesday – Listening and Speaking

“The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.”

A well-trained tongue. One that knows which words to speak and when to speak them. One that can say just the right thing to lift up the tired and depressed. One that stirs people to action. One that spreads the message of God to His people.

“Morning after morning He opens my ear that I may hear...”

The one who speaks must first listen. He must hear God's word with the ears of his heart and the ears of his mind. He must concentrate closely on the message God has for him and make sure he understands. He must reflect on what he hears and recognize that it is a great gift from God, Who opens his ears in the first place as a grace. The words he hears are the words he must speak.

Listening and speaking. God calls all of us to listen to His words and then speak them to others with great love.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Reflections for the 5th week of Lent, Part 2

Thursday – I AM

“I AM.” Nothing Jesus ever said raised the Jews' hackles more than these two little words. “I AM,” Yahweh, is the divine Name, given to Moses by God Himself and rarely if ever pronounced by the Jews because of its sacred quality.

For Jesus to say this Name out loud was shocking enough, but for Him to apply it to Himself, to claim it as His own, was astounding. The Jews considered it blasphemy of the worse kind, and in their anger, they picked up stones to throw at Jesus.

But Jesus didn't back down. He knew Who He was, and it was time that everyone else did, too. By saying “I AM” in such a decisive fashion, Jesus was announcing His divinity, proclaiming His intimacy and equality with the Father, and letting the Jews know that the Messiah they had long awaited had now arrived. Except the Jews had never expected a Messiah like this. They weren't looking for God Himself. Yet that's exactly Who they got.

Friday – He Heard My Voice

In today's Psalm, the Psalmist rejoices that God has heard His voice. We, too, should rejoice, for God always hears our voices. Even when we think He isn't listening, He is. Even when we think He isn't answering us, He is. Even when we think He is ignoring us completely, He is right beside us, hearing our every word, our every thought, our every cry and wrapping us in His love.

Saturday – St. Joseph

Today on this Solemnity of St. Joseph, let us pray.

St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.
St. Joseph, who believed God's word, pray for us.
St. Joseph, who acted according to God's plan, pray for us.
St. Joseph, who remained always chaste, pray for us.
St. Joseph, who protected Mary and Jesus, pray for us.
St. Joseph, who worked hard to support his family, pray for us.
St. Joseph, who put others first and himself last, pray for us.
St. Joseph, who conquered his fear, pray for us.
St. Joseph, who lived with great love, pray for us.
St. Joseph, who died in Jesus and Mary's arms, pray for us.
St. Joseph, who cares for us as a loving father, pray for us.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Reflections for the 5th week of Lent, Part 1

Monday – Suppressing the Conscience

We do it all the time in some form or another. It's just a little white lie. No one will miss something so small. I'll wait until next time around to pay my dues. That person deserved a sharp response. I'll just buy one more thing. I'll be cheerful and patient tomorrow. It's no big deal really.

Like the two elders in the story of Susanna in today's first reading, we suppress our consciences. We refuse to listen to the little voice inside our hearts that tells us when we're doing something wrong. We tune it out. We tell it to be quiet. We shove it aside. We stubbornly decide that we are going to do what we want to do when we want to do it.

In doing so, however, in suppressing our consciences, we are really turning away from God, Who speaks to us through that little voice inside. It may be a small thing at first. Not all sin is mortal. But it's still a deliberate choice to look away from Heaven and focus on ourselves and our desires. And the more little wrong choices we make, the easier it gets to concentrate on the things of the world and the harder it gets to turn back to God and listen to Him.

During Lent, the Church invites us to examine our lives closely and see where we've been suppressing our consciences and choosing to sin. Also, like the good mother she is, the Church encourages us to come clean with ourselves, confess our sins, and receive the forgiveness that God is generously holding out to us. Now is the time to turn back to God, especially in the beautiful sacrament of Confession, and learn how to listen to that little voice that guides us straight to Him.

Tuesday – Shocking Words

“Where I am going you cannot come.” 

“I belong to what is above.” 

“I do not belong to this world.”

“But the One who sent Me is true, and what I heard from Him I tell the world.”

“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM...”

“I say only what the Father taught Me.”

“I always do what is pleasing to Him.”

These are truly shocking words. Jesus is claiming His divinity. He is not of this world. He is sent by God the Father and works in close conjunction with the Father, Who tells Him what He must say and do. Jesus always obeys the Father's will, for it is His will, too. There is no difference. Soon, Jesus proclaims, the Son of Man (in His human nature) will be lifted up, and then people will know the truth. His divinity will shine out in the most unlikely place...on the cross.

Wednesday – True Commitment

The three young men were adamant. Even in the face of the king's threat to throw them into a white hot furnace, they were determined to stand their ground. They would not worship an idol no matter who told them to do so. They would not turn away from the one true God no matter how much they were tortured.

What's more, the three young man were not even scared. “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter,” they told the king. Their God could easily save them if He so willed, but even if He did not, they would remain faithful to Him anyway. They would trust Him completely, knowing that if He allowed them to suffer and die, then He had His reasons, and that was good enough for them.

Do we take this same attitude of true commitment to God? Do we stand firm in the face of suffering and persecution, or do we dash the other direction and give in to the dictates of the world? Do we fear those who threaten us, or do we stand firm in the arms of the God Who loves us?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Reflections for the 4th Week of Lent, Part 2

Thursday – Moses Wrote About Jesus?

Moses wrote about Me. This is what Jesus tells the Jews in today's Gospel. 

We might wonder how this could be. Moses lived thousands of years before Jesus. How could he have written about Him?

Let's break down this conundrum point by point.

Point 1 – Moses, the traditional author of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), did not write by himself. He was inspired by the Holy Spirit. God is a true Author of Scripture, and He used human beings (also true authors) as His instruments.

Point 2 – God, obviously, knew the whole plan of salvation history from the very beginning. He knew it eternally. And He certainly knew it when He inspired Moses. 

Point 3 – Therefore, God could easily have dropped hints about New Testament salvation historical events throughout the Old Testament, and He did!

Point 4 – These hints or prefigurations or foreshadows are called types. Types can be people, things, actions, and events. They are real, but they are also signs of other people, things, actions, and events still to come. When we study the typology of the Bible, we see how the Old Testament prefigures the New Testament and how the New Testament fulfills the Old Testament.

Point 5 – Moses, inspired by God, incorporated numerous types into his writing. Joseph, for instance, is a type of Christ, for he shed his rich garments and became poor (as Christ put aside His divinity and became poor), was betrayed by his brothers, and ended up a powerful ruler who saved countless lives.

Point 6 – Types are always weaker than the realities they foreshadow. Joseph was not divine, nor was he perfect. His actions were limited by his humanity. But he does point to Christ in many important ways, giving us hints of the Messiah Who was to come. 

This is why Jesus says that Moses wrote about Him. Jesus and His saving deeds appear in mystery thousands of years before they occurred because God, in His wisdom and love, enriched history by dropping clues of the wonderful salvation He was planning for His people.

Friday – His Hour Had Not Yet Come

Jesus could make waves when He wanted to. The Jews were trying to kill Him, but there He was, speaking openly in Jerusalem. He even “cried out” in the Temple area. The Greek word here suggests a loud, emotional, urgent message. 

Indeed, Jesus wanted people to know for sure that He was not alone in His teaching. “You know Me and also know where I am from,” He said, quite ironically since the Jews didn't know Him very well at all. “Yet I did not come on My own, but the One who sent Me, whom you do not know, is true. I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” 

These are some pretty heavy words. Jesus was basically saying that God Himself had sent Him, that He came directly from God and knew God personally and intimately. He also indicated that the Jews did not know God. These were fighting words really. Jesus was claiming His own divinity, subtly but certainly, and also denying the Jews' claims to religious authority.

The Jews, naturally, were furious. They tried to arrest Him but unsuccessfully, for His hour had not yet come. It was not time yet for Jesus to make the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. He had more to do and more to say. So He walked away. Jesus was totally in control of the situation. The Jews could not touch Him until the appointed time, no matter how angry they were at His challenging words.

Saturday – Our Refuge

When life is just too much to bear, hide in God. When enemies close in on every side, hide in God. When nothing is going right, hide in God. When you are frightened and worried, hide in God. When you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, hide in God. When you are overwhelmed and exhausted, hide in God. When you are sick and in pain, hide in God. 

God is our refuge, our strength, our mercy, and our justice. He is the One Who gives us strength and sustains us. He is the One Who rescues us and tucks us safely away in His arms. He is the One Who comforts us and wraps us in love. 

So hide in God.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Reflections for the 4th Week of Lent, Part 1

Monday – “O Lord, Be My Helper”

O Lord, be my Helper! Lord, my faith is so small; make it grow.

O Lord, be my Helper! Lord, my hope is so weak; help me find confidence in You and in Your promises.

O Lord, be my Helper! Lord, my love is so feeble; pour more into my heart that I may pour it out to others.

O Lord, be my Helper! Lord, my trust is so frail; let me see that You have a plan for me and for my loved ones no matter what happens.

O Lord, be my Helper! Lord, I'm frightened of the future; be my refuge and my strength.

O Lord, be my Helper! Now and forever.


Tuesday – A Healing and a Betrayal?

In today's Gospel, we watch as Jesus heals a man who had been sick for over thirty years. This man had long hoped to be cured by immersing himself in miraculous pool of Bethesda, but he missed his chance every single time because he just couldn't move fast enough. 

Jesus didn't even bother to answer the man's veiled complaint. Instead He said, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” The man obeyed immediately, healed in an instant, and Jesus slipped away into the crowd.

When the Jews saw the now-healthy man carrying his mat, they promptly chastised him, for it was the sabbath. The man defended himself by saying that the Man Who had healed him had told him to carry his mat, but he couldn't tell them just Who that Man was. 

A while later Jesus approached the man again, this time with a warning: “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” But rather than heed this warning or even thank Jesus for healing him, the man hurried straight to the Jews and told them that Jesus was the One Who had cured him. The Jews were only too happy to persecute Jesus for healing on the sabbath.

Why did this man who had received such a wonderful gift turn to the Jews? Did he honestly want to share his good news? Did he think he could win their favor? Was he just trying to be helpful? Did he think he could explain that it was okay for Jesus to heal on the sabbath? Did he mean to betray Jesus to the Jews? Did he just not understand their animosity? 

The man's actions should make us think about our own responses to God's gifts. Do we appreciate them as we should, or do we seek something more? Do we truly recognize these treasures as signs of God's love, or do we betray Jesus by being indifferent to His graces? Do we embrace our Lord, or do we turn elsewhere for favor and support? 

Wednesday - “I Will Never Forget You”

God makes a wonderful promise in today's first reading: “I will never forget you.” 

And He means it. God remembers us every single minute. He holds us in existence and in His thoughts. He sees all. He knows all. He cares about everything, even the most minute, unimportant parts of our lives. He never leaves us alone. He loves us without the slightest waver, constantly, perfectly. Even when He seems far away, the distance is on our end, not His. He is closer to us than we are to ourselves. He waits for us to turn to Him that we might feel His tender embrace. 

“I will never forget you.” Always remember that.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Reflections for the 3rd Week of Lent, Part 2

Thursday – One Stronger

“When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe.” When we look around at this crazy, mixed up world we live in, we might sometimes wonder if the enemy is winning. Violence is everywhere. Disease is rampant. Faithlessness and cynicism entwine the hearts of many. Hatred and apathy seem to reign. The enemy appears to be holding tightly to his possessions in the midst of the world.

But Jesus assures us that the enemy does not and will not have the last word: “But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.” There is one stronger than the enemy: Jesus Himself, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God-made-man, Omnipotence incarnate. Jesus has already defeated the enemy, the prince of this world. He has already overcome him by dying on the cross. He has won victory over the enemy's lies and malice. They can no longer hurt us if we stay close to Jesus. We are safe. We can enjoy the things of this world without being controlled by them if we place them in Jesus' hands and let Him distribute them to us as He pleases. We can be secure in faith, hope, and love. Even in the midst of suffering, we can find a depth of meaning and even joy, knowing that Jesus is in control and works all things for our ultimate good.

Indeed, the One stronger stands right beside us, and His strength and grace flow into us that we, too, might defeat the enemy and reign victorious with Jesus forever.

Friday – No Strange God

“There shall be no strange god among you nor shall you worship any alien god.”

No strange god. Do we worship any strange gods? Do we make money or possessions or power or fame or glory the center of our lives? Have they become idols that we set up on a pedestal? Do we bow down before them, hoping that somehow they will make us happy?

No strange god. We have but one God, the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, all-wise, all-merciful, all-loving God of the universe. He calls us to worship Him alone, to give ourselves to Him completely, to surrender to His perfect will, and to embrace His perfect love.

No strange god. We don't need strange gods. We already have the One God Who stands above all else.

Saturday – Two People Praying

Two people are praying in the Temple. One is a religious leader. People look to him for guidance about the ways and laws of God. He considers himself an expert in his field, and he speaks confidently about his habits of fasting and tithing. He is quite glad that he isn't like everyone else. He sees himself as someone special.

But this man is not really praying to God. He is praying to himself. He is merely congratulating himself on his human accomplishments and reflecting on how much he stands above his fellow human beings. He is not interacting with God.

The other person, however, is a tax collector. He stands at the bottom of the social ladder, despised by his countrymen because of his profession. This man knows he is a sinner. He doesn't raise his eyes but remains humbly at a distance and strikes his breast to show his grief and repentance. “O God,” he cries, “be merciful to me a sinner.”

This man, in spite of his weakness and sin, is talking directly to God. He knows who he is and what he is, but he also realizes that God is greater than all his faults and all his trials. In his humility, he hopes that God will forgive him.

And God does. Jesus tells us that the tax collector went home justified. He left the Temple in a right relationship with God, forgiven and free.

This story of two people praying invites us to ask ourselves some questions about why we pray, how we pray, and to whom we pray. As we reflect, let us also remember Jesus' final commentary on the matter: “...for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”