21 Oct Sunday
Reflections towards Ordinary Time 30 C. This and last Sunday’s parables on the way to Jerusalem are closely linked by Luke. Jesus is teaching about prayer: persistence, faith, and quality of prayer. I get the feeling that many of us are saying to themselves: “O yeah, that’s me, the humble tax collector.” I fear too many Catholics are the arrogant Pharisees. This latter prayer quickly leads to self congratulatory self satisfaction. It is a sort of “do ut des’ religion kind of prayer (“I am giving so that you [God] will give.”), a very simplistic way of looking at the relationship with God.
Of course, we all pray in the trenches of life, when the battle is thickest, and we are hurting the most. We bargain. Numerous personal examples come to mind to share. We’ve all done it.
The text includes the Jesus Prayer, one of many times already in the Gospel of Luke. “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This is prayer. There is no need for more words. The tax collector has four qualities in his prayer. While the Pharisees takes up his place, the tax collector has no place but “off at a distance.” The Pharisees raises his eyes to heaven, while the tax collector’s eyes are lowered. The Pharisees addressed himself, while the tax collector addresses God. The Pharisees brags about his status in life, while the tax collector only identifies himself accurately as a sinner.
It is unusual that the actual word “mercy” does not appear in the Jesus Prayer, but rather, ιλασθητι the verbal form of the word for a cult sacrifice of propitiation/expiation. In other words, the suggestion and insight is that prayer is itself a sacrificial offering, but here truly expiatory, without expecting a return but God gratuitous forgiveness. That Jesus sets the parable in th Temple drives home this point. Jesus confronts the Temple cult.