Self-knowledge is so very important in our life of prayer, in our seeking after God and His life. We can deceive ourselves so cleverly! The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector at prayer comes to mind:
Lk 11:9 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.
10 “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
11 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.
12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
13 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.’
14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
We can so easily blind ourselves to our own faults and idolatries, and thus so easily enter and leave the temple of sacred prayer in ignorance and presumption. May the Lord give us in grace the courageous honesty – the simplicity and hope in the mercy of God – shown us by the tax collector, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
In the world we see so many in desperate flight, it seems, from His mercy and ready forgiveness. Like Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden after their sin, modern man hides from God, and from the darkening consequences of his escape from Truth, from God. Indeed modern man wants to deny “consequences” themselves! Yet consequence remain, as surely as effect follows cause and suffering follows sin. The abortions, the immorality and amorality, the subversion of love and of marriage and of family, the turning from actuality in preference for fantasies, fictions and “virtual” reality, the borrowing against the future to finance the excess and the self-indulgence of the present – all these are added to the scales, the weight of debt grows, and the time of reckoning grows closer.
Sept. 11, 2011, ten years after the horrific awakening that exploded upon America, was yesterday. All the videos were replayed, all the tapes again were heard, the anguish again was uncovered and the deep, deep sorrow again invited us to repentance. How the world needs a holy People of God! How the world needs to hear the saving Gospel! How the world needs the Church to be Church, calling this lost world to the one Truth that can save us.
O God, be merciful to me a sinner. Save us all Lord from the sterile self-satisfactions of pharisaism, the nest-building when we ought to be out evangelizing. Deliver us from all false security with our outward structures, and point us to what is inside the cup. Thy Kingdom come, O Lord.