Wearing the Right Attire – Willy Samson, SJ

Luke 18:9-14a, 30th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Our Gospel today is a continuation of last Sunday’s Gospel where Jesus gave us some basic instructions on prayer. Last Sunday, we were reminded on the importance of praying always and not losing our hearts (Luke 18:1-8). But today, Jesus wants us to recognize the necessity of having the right attitude in prayer.

In any social gathering, part of our preparation is to know the proper attire to wear. We need to follow the dress code. We don’t want to offend the host by wearing the wrong clothes. By wearing the appropriate attire, we give due respect to the host and his guests.
This is also true with regard to prayer. Right disposition is necessary when one goes to prayer. God deserves our respect and courtesy when in front of Him; thus it’s important to have the right disposition when one goes to prayer. And there’s nothing more pleasing in God’s eyes than to come to Him with humble and contrite heart.

In our Gospel today, Jesus shared a parable to drive his point of the importance of having the right disposition in prayer. He gave us two contrasting people in front of the temple – the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. In this parable, Jesus creatively illustrated two contrasting attitude and disposition in front of God. Something that we need to remember every time we come to worship God in prayer.

The first person was the Pharisee. For him, the right disposition in coming to prayer was external in nature. He wanted to boast to God that he had faithfully observed what the law requires. But in doing so, his coming to prayer became an exercise of exalting himself and judging others – “I am better than thou.” His prayer was all about himself, and not about God anymore. He completely forgot that everything is grace. He may have done all the things required by the temple law, like fasting and tithing; unfortunately, due to his pride and his harsh judgment of the tax collector as sinner, crooked and adulterous, he loses God’s admiration.

On the other hand, the Tax Collector approached God with his humble and contrite heart. The fact that he could not come closer to the altar, that he could not raise his eyes to heaven, and that he kept on beating his breast saying, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner” were enough for us to shift our attention and mercy to him than to the proud Pharisee. The Tax Collector recognized who he was – a public sinner. Being true to himself was more than enough to merit God’s admiration and compassion.

One thing is crystal clear in our Gospel: anyone who wishes to merit God’s attention and favor, the best way is to wear the spirit of humility and contrite heart. God cannot turn his eyes to people who are humble enough to accept who they are.

We don’t want to be hypocrites in our prayer like the Pharisees. Real worship goes beyond fasting, tithing, and reciting prayers. Real worship is more than telling to God of our achievements and success in life. Real worship begins when one humbly admits his own sinfulness and faults against God.

I respect people who honestly admit who they are – as sinners. Such admittance gives them courage to face their darkness and take a positive step to repent, believe and live the Gospel. On the other hand, people who are blinded by their pride will never experience the mercy and love of God.

The Gospel encourages us to wear the right disposition in prayer. Let’s humbly accept our sinfulness and repent. The secret of genuine worship begins with our humble admittance of our sins. We need to surrender to God our “DARK PART OF OUR SOULS” that needs conversion and healing. And when God sees our humble and contrite heart, we can expect his quick intervention to give us his salvation.

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