“The one who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens. The lowly prayer pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly, and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.” Sirach 35: 16-18
In 2015, Denzel Washington delivered a commencement speech at Dillard College. In the speech, the award-winning actor shared how his mother reminded him how many people prayed for him. His mother was a woman of faith. The important lesson he learned from her mother was how to humble himself before God.
In the Gospel of Luke, we hear about a pharisee and a tax collector praying in the temple. Both have very different tones.
In the case of the Pharisee, he starts his praying giving thanks for doing everything as he centers the prayer on himself. In the meantime, the Pharisee puts down the tax collector in a prideful way.
When it was time for the tax collector to pray to God, he utters this profound one-liner, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner” while bowing his head down. Through this prayer, he becomes aware of God and his mercy. Unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector acknowledged the fact that he is a sinner and seeks the mercy of God with great humility in his prayer.
The gospel and the readings from Sirach and St. Paul’s letter to St. Timothy share the common message of prayer and humility. We see that they all correlate with how God knows our longings and needs. Humility, when tied with prayer, builds our relationship with love for God. Humility is built upon trust and patience.
Sirach reminds us of how God hears the prayer of those who plea for him. It is fitting that the responsorial psalm selected for this Sunday reinforces the many pleas God receives from humanity. We too have made pleas for peace, work, healing, and conversion. Our call to prayer as St. Paul reminds us, “keep the faith”. Like the tax collector, he too acknowledges that God worked through him to keep the faith. He says, “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength so that through me the proclamation might be completed, and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.”
Today, let us continue to run and finish the race. Along the way, let us think of what God wants us to do without comparing ourselves with others. Let our prayer be that of humbling our hearts before God.
"I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7