Since we celebrated the Solemnity of Body and Blood of Christ on 29th May, we have had, with the exception of the Solemnity of the Assumption, a clear run with the Ordinary Sundays of the Year. These Sundays will continue, with the exception of the celebration of All Saints, until Cycle C (Saint Luke) is completed when we celebrate Christ the King on the last Sunday. Then, at the start of Advent we commence Cycle A (Saint Matthew).

The uninterrupted continuation of the Sunday readings has a great value because it allows a theme of teaching to develop and expand.

{see the opening and penultimate paragraphs of the reflections for the 24th Sunday – September 11th, and last Sunday respectively.}

So, the value of

THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [SIRACH 35: 12c – 14. 16 – 18b] and its connection with last Sunday’s Gospel together with the development of its teaching should be obvious. The reading opens with the words – “the Lord is the judge, and with him is no partiality”, and in the last sentence we are told “the Lord will not delay.” Here some words from today’s ENTRANCE ANTIPHON are also relevant – “turn to the Lord and his strength, constantly seek his face.” We must ‘seek his face’ in the answers he gives.

In addition let us not forget some words from

TODAY’S PSALM [34 or 33]“when the just cry out, the Lord hears … rescues them in all their distress … is close to the brokenhearted.” We are also able to add some words from OUR NEW TESTAMENT READING [2 TIMOTHY 4: 6 – 8. 16 – 18]“the Lord, the righteous judge … stood by me and gave me strength … I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.”

The scriptural teaching on prayer which has been developed so far reaches its climax in the parable recorded in

TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 18: 9 – 14]. There we hear the pivotal lesson of the fundamental and personal attitude required by individuals when they commence their conversation with the Lord. It is an attitude of heart and mind together with the total absence of any sort of pretence or reliance on whatever good works in which we may be involved. “The Pharisee could outshine most people in his religious practice. These are worthy actions, but his self-righteous spirit ruins it all.”(LIGOURI CATHOLIC BIBLE STUDY) WILLIAM A ANDERSON: The Gospel of Luke – Page 113) Is the Pharisee preening himself or is he suffering from a faith/religious security problem? This is a serious question and we must be sure that it should not be asked of us! His prayer commences with the futile attempt to inform the Lord (as if HE did not know already – and a good deal more!) about his ‘good standing’ – and this is done by comparing himself to others who he regards as not being nearly as upright as himself. True it is that comparisons are always odious.

In the previous paragraph I deliberately mentioned the phrase good standing. This time around my reading of these particular Gospel verses picked up for the first time the significance of the words that

“the tax collector, standing far off …. .” The Gospel does not tell us the precise location of the Pharisee but makes particular mention of where the tax collector placed himself. I suspect that, by default, the Pharisee was in a position where he could and would be clearly seen. Here, for me, the physical position is unimportant. However, the phrase indicates AN ATTITUDE OF MIND AND HEART that is all-important when we take ourselves into prayer which is nothing more than talking with God. In passing I record my preference for prayer being a ‘talking with’ and not a ‘talking to’.

We should not presume that in the tax collector’s life there was an absence of good works. Where is it indicated that he never fasted or did not pay his tithe? We must keep to the text itself because therein lies the teaching of the lesson. Finally, hear where the tax collector started – his position was an honest self-evaluation and he first asks for the Lord’s mercy “to me a sinner.” Here we see his attitude of mind and heart.

After this start did he feel encouraged to approach a little nearer?

 


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