Gospel Reflection – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Malvern Minute



OCTOBER 23, 2016

Alleluia, Alleluia.

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,

and entrusting to us the message of salvation.

Alleluia, Alleluia.


A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke: 18: 9-14

Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.

Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.  The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’  But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Gospel of the Lord



The Gospel according to Saint Luke continues to assist us in a deeper understanding of Christian Prayer.   In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, as an introduction to His teaching of the Our Father, Jesus makes a clear distinction between Christian Prayer and other types.  Now, with the addition of Saint Luke’s Gospel this morning, we can identify from the lips of Jesus three very significant characteristics of Christian Prayer:

  1. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them….


  1. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6: 5-8).


  1. The one who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 18: 14)

In order for us to pray in the way Jesus teaches, it would be of great value to review these three characteristics in more detail.

First, Jesus teaches that prayer is for God … to praise and thank God who is the source of all life and goodness.  The poor Pharisee’s so called prayer was upside down.  Notice the way the Gospel describes the Pharisee’s effort at praying: The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself.  On first read, this may appear to be an innocent, non-judgmental description.  However, the Gospel is criticizing the Pharisee who, taking up his position was not just standing erect as Jews do, but was positioning himself boldly and with pride before God.  The Gospel continues to tells us that the man was not praying to God but spoke this prayer to himself.   He was praying to himself and not God!

Secondly, Jesus teaches us not to pray like paganswho think that they will be heard because of their many words.   Prayer has little to do with words – let alone many words!  This may be shocking for some.  Prayer has everything to do with the heart!  Sometimes words are valuable, but words can never fully express the depth of our love and gratitude to God.  Words become extremely inadequate in prayer.   Language is human; and therefore, it is limited and not proficient in the ways of love, devotion, praise and thanksgiving that our whole person desires to express in prayer.   Saint Paul summarizes this agony in trying to express fully oneself to God: we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.

Prayer is loving God from the heart – heart to heart, as many mystics express it.  It is a disposition, a deep desire to offer God one’s whole self!   Trying to express this level of depth with words can become frustrating and distracting.  In prayer we fix our heart on God, attentiveness to God beyond words.   In this way, we situate ourselves not boldly before God, but submissively, open to receive what God desires to give to us.  So, if you must use words, be sure they are from the heart and are deliberate.

Thirdly, prayer must always originate from a humble heart.  There is nothing we can do that can warrant God’s goodness. Again, the Pharisee forgot this in his boasting before God, as if God was very fortunate to have someone like him.  Prayer is a radical acknowledgment of how blessed we are because of the goodness of God!  God is the source of all life and goodness, and in His Mercy He has chosen to bless us with life and love.  When all is said and done, prayer is humbly standing before God with a heart filled with gratitude and praise for God above everything else.



Consider joining the Men and Women of Malvern by deepening your personal relationship with Jesus and your commitment as a disciple through a weekend retreat.  See our Web Site for details: MalvernRetreat.com


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