Bishop Banda’s Homily, Saturday, 3rd Week of Lent
Our gospel reading today calls upon each and every one of us to sincerely look within ourselves and especially our attitude during prayer.
Prayer is not so much the good we have done and the bad we have avoided but acknowledging of God’s sovereignty, our utter nothingness and our appeal for mercy and love. This is what creates a relationship between God and ourselves and indeed this relationship flows to our neighbour.
A correct attitude of prayer can greatly help to develop sound relationships with God and neighbour. Unfortunately, there seems to be both a pharisaic and a tax collector’s disposition in each one of us. Yet, only one attitude remains justified before God.
In our prayers, there is a tendency to count the good things we have done and the bad things we have avoided. There is also an inclination to compare ourselves with others purely on face value. Over and above we judge others based on public opinion and hear says.
However, our prayer ought not to be so much what we say or do. Rather the awareness of who we are with in prayer. When we realize who we are with, we will also realize who we really are. We are merely creatures before God.
God is the one who is infinite love and mercy. In this realization we can only humbly admit that we are nothing and without Him we can do nothing. Thus we are constantly in need of His mercy and love.
In prayer, let us learn to be humble, to recognize our own poverty, our own short comings before God and one another and to ask for God’s mercy and love. The prophet Hosea says: “Words become prayer, when joined to a humble love and knowledge of God”.
The Pharisee and the Taxi collector have very different approaches to prayer. One spends his prayer-time parading his own virtues and achievements; and the other just asks for mercy, humbly aware of being a sinner. Jesus favours the latter.
May our Lenten season of introspection help us to move from the pharisaic attitude of the unholy trinity “I”, “Me” and “Myself” to the tax collector attitude of acknowledging God’s presence, acknowledging of one’s shortcomings and to plead for God’s mercy and love.