Saturday of the Third Week

Painting of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector at the Temple

Daily Offering

Breath of God, speak within me today so that with my words I may create harmony and peace with those you send me. Let not a violent word pass through my lips.      Philip Harrison SJ

Entering into prayer

Beginning at the top of your head and passing down through the body to the feet be attentive to each part of the body in turn. Gently focus in turn on each part … head … face … eyes …neck ... shoulders etc.

For each part, allow a few moments to become aware of what is being felt, without making judgement upon it. Move on in turn until you have given attention to your whole body. Then consider your whole self …. you as a person made in God’s likeness … you in whom God chooses to dwell...

Today's scripture (Luke 18: 9-14)
Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else, ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.’ The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’. This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

Food for thought

Today Jesus speaks of our response to God through the gift of prayer. A little earlier in Luke’s Gospel the disciples had begged Jesus, ‘Lord, teach us to pray!’. So now Jesus continues their education with a witty account of two very different characters who pray in very different ways. Outwardly the Pharisee prides himself on being a paragon of virtue, outdoing everyone else by fasting and paying tithes at a level well beyond what the Law requires. But he also knows just how marvellous he is. His wordy prayer is completely focused on himself and he dismisses others out of hand. By contrast, the scorned tax collector can think of nothing but his own unworthiness. His short prayer is full of remorse, but it comes from deep within his heart. He pleads with the Lord and trusts that he’ll be heard – and he goes home vindicated.

What matters, Jesus seems to say, is that if we come before God just as we are, in complete honesty and trust, we will discover God’s generous heart. Regardless of our failings and shortcomings, here in prayer we meet the God who yearns only to love us.

Suggestions for prayer

I might like to spend a moment pondering how my own prayer is going this Lent. I imagine Jesus telling this parable himself, perhaps with a touch of humour. I picture the Pharisee, proud to be in the public gaze, and the tax collector cowering behind him. What do I notice about the way each of them prays? Perhaps I take a moment to notice where my own attention is focused … towards God, or inwards at myself? I ask the Lord to gently direct my gaze, and in turn to help me be aware of his loving gaze upon me.

The Pharisee spends much time making comparisons, though it gets him nowhere. I reflect on how I regard others. Do I tend instinctively to judge, or do I find it more natural to respond with compassion and tolerance? I speak to the Lord about this, asking for any help I need.

The tax collector, in contrast, approaches God with great sorrow. Trusting in God’s love and mercy, I share with him anything that troubles me, or I know troubles someone else I know. I may like to make my own the ‘Jesus Prayer’ inspired by the tax collector’s own words: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me’. As I end my time of reflection, I give thanks that my prayer is never just my own work, but the gift of the living God who loves me enough to die for me.

How are you going to respond today?

Today might be a day to put aside any concerns I have about praying in the ‘right way’, or with the right words. Rather than focusing on my achievements or failings, I simply offer myself with an open heart, trusting in the God who loves me and yearns to meet me just as I am.

Image of the day

Painting of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector at the Temple

  • What do you see in this image? Does it remind you of anyone or any group of people?
  • How might it help you reflect on what it means to be virtuous?
  • Talk to Jesus about that.

Examen (review of prayer)

With God: With God I review my day

Thanks: Where do I find joy?

Sorry: Where do I find sadness?

Please: What do I ask from God?

Amen                                                                                     Examen in twenty-five words

Going deeper

Body Exercise

Imaginative Contemplation: Zaccheus