Updated: Nov 18, 2022
Sirach 35:12-14; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; Luke 18:9-14
Saint John Baptist de LaSalle/Saint Stephen October 23, 2022
I was born while World War II was still being fought. My father was with General Patton's 76th Infantry Division, which was fighting in Germany while I was living at home with my mother. Especially because of the war, my mother spent a great deal of her time in prayer. I don't really remember the first time I said a prayer, but I do remember my mother teaching me to memorize prayers. There is a small blue book in the vestibule of our Church, called "Catholic Devotional
Prayers," and these were many of the prayers my mother taught me. Your more than welcomed to take one home with you as you leave Church today. By the time I went to school, I knew all those prayers by heart, however, I rarely said them. That is because my mother taught me how to pray, and to not just say prayers. “Prayer,” my mother would say, "is having a conversation with God, talking and listening, about what you want God to know, and listening to what God has to say about it." However, as with all things in life, there can be danger in prayer. The two people in today's Gospel were not just "saying prayers," they were praying. Yet it's easy to fall into the same trap as the Pharisee and pray not to God but to ourselves. “The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself.” It is all too easy to forget who it really is that we are praying too. This is especially true when we don't really believe that God is listening, and we have very little concern for what God has to say. However, we do know that God hears our prayer and listens to everything we have to say. We also know that God already knows everything there is to know, and so, when we pray, we don't need to tell God anything at all. But, when we pray, we tell God about our suffering and pain, our hopes and our joys, our cares and our concerns, our thankfulness and gratitude, for all God has done for us.
We tell God all these things quite naturally, just as any child would tell their mother or father about what is happening in their life. This is good and appropriate way to pray if we realize that our prayer should not end there. I do believe the one thing God does not need to hear is our opinion of ourselves. And we certainly don't need to justify to God our actions and motives. God Knows! So, what should we say to God? Well, we surely could not go wrong if we follow the example of the tax collector and say the words that Jesus puts in his mouth: "God, be merciful to me a sinner." However, we could go wrong if we follow the Pharisee's prayer. Passing judgment on others is one of our greatest faults, and I could spend the rest of this homily speaking about judging others, but I won't. You can probably give yourselves a far better homily than any I could deliver. How we pray is how we relate to God. This is an important point, because our prayer is not a reflection on our relationship with God, it is our relationship with God. In addition to praying, we must spend time listening, just as we would in any relationship. Listening to what God has to say to us, helps us to do what God wants us to do. One last thing about prayer. Remember, whatever we ask from God we will receive, we just don't know when or how. So, be careful what you pray for. I assure you; you will get what you deserve. "Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”