The main theme of today’s Gospel is that true humility must be the hallmark of our prayers. However, the central focus of today’s parable is not on prayer itself, but rather on pride, humility and the role of grace in our salvation.
The first reading, from Sirach, is a perfect companion piece to the Gospel parable. In one striking image from Sirach, the writer talks about "the prayer of the lowly, piercing the clouds to reach the unseen throne of God.” Such prayers are heard because they come from the hearts of people who know how much they need God. Although God has no favorites and answers the prayers of all, the oppressed, the orphans, the widows, and those who can least help themselves are His special concern. The best prayer is humble and selfless service.
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The lesson in today’s first reading is clear: God shows mercy to humble people. This theme is also spelled out in the gospel. In this parable, the Pharisee is filled with pride and his prayer is arrogant. The tax collector is filled with humility and his prayer certainly reflects it. As much as we might hate to admit it, many of us live very comfortable lives and may resemble the Pharisee more closely than we’d like. We get so caught up in “counting our blessings” that we forget to consider our shortcomings. We are all sinners; not one of us is better than another. To be fully alive means to recognize all that God has blessed us with, but it also requires us to recognize that we desperately need God’s mercy and forgiveness. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10). Live out your discipleship in such a way that God Himself exalts you