Dear brothers and sisters,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
We have clarified for us once again the necessity of our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection in Jerusalem: we cannot save ourselves. No one human being is righteous enough on their own hear on earth let alone in heaven.
Our Lord is today highlighting also for us that we must never ever cease to pray while we are still on this earth for God’s mercy and forgiveness. This parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector drives home the fact that until we behold the face of our Father in heaven, we are not righteous enough for that beatific vision of the Father.
So like the humble tax collector, we must unceasingly cry to God, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” We must not become weary of praying before God for our salvation and transformation into His divine nature.
This means that we must never give in to the temptation that Satan has infected the world with that we have arrived. Let us not give in to the lie that we are perfect the way we are. We are not. To think this is to have given up praying. To give up praying is to have succumbed to a life of endless misery.
We must never think also that it is impossible to pray without ceasing. On our own it is. The righteous life of holiness our Lord is calling us to is not a life that He has left for us to attain by our own. He knows we know not how to pray without ceasing.
This is another reason for the necessity of His going to Jerusalem. In His descent from heaven, to Nazareth and following His southbound descent to Jerusalem and from Mt. Zion further down to Golgotha and into hell, He was descending into the depths of every human heart, living and dead.
In giving up His life on the Cross, He was pouring into the restless heart of every human being His Spirit to sustain us in our praying. His command to pray unceasingly the prayer of the tax collector is Him giving words to the already restless heart that will never rests till it rests with the Father in heaven.
We may not always be at Mass, or in a church, or in a space and time of prayer, but our heart is always restlessly desiring the fullness of divine life even though we may be directing that desire away from the Divine.
If we are still and quiet for long enough a time, we will very soon discover that our hearts are yet to be fully divinized. It still beats restlessly for the Divine.
Our restless hearts will already begin to find joy and peace here on earth when we cry to the One who already has descended there, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” – Fr. Simi.