The WORD in other words (2022) by Fr Francisco Estepa SVD — Liceo del Verbo Divino of Tacloban City
Saturday 3rd Week of Lent
There was a man named Pedro who constantly prayed in front of a big crucifix with these words, “Lord, make me famous and rich. I am a good person. I go to Mass every Sunday and holydays of obligation. I follow the Church’s rule on fasting and abstinence. I am not like my neighbor, Juan, who cheats on his wife. He is also a gambler and a drunkard. Please reward my goodness.”
Pedro always prays like this whenever he is in front of the big crucifix in the Church. Until one day he heard a voice coming from the crucified Lord, “Pedro, Pedro. If only my feet are not nailed I have already kicked you a long time ago.” This is just a joke, of course, but it reflects the spirit of the Gospel reading today.
Pedro can be likened to the Pharisee who praised himself for following the Jewish regulations on fasting and tithing. Although the prayer is addressed to the Lord, it is a prayer about himself. He thinks that the source of his blessing is himself and not God. He excessively praises himself, and his prayer is focused as a gratitude to himself. His prayer is anchored on his accomplishments. He does not only glorify himself, but he also looks down on others who he perceives as sinners. He is a self-righteous man praying a self-righteous prayer.
This is a direct contrast to the prayer of the tax collector. His is a prayer of reliance on the benevolence of God. Before God, he is a sinner and in need of God’s mercy. His prayer is a prayer that looks at merit belonging exclusively to God; hence, his humble prayer. He sees himself as a sinner in need of God’s goodness and mercy.
A prayer that accepts one’s predicament and seeks God’s grace and mercy is a prayer listened to by the Lord. May our prayer be like that of a tax collector, one who is dependent on God’s mercy and goodness.