“That responsorial psalm today certainly challenges ‘The Lord hears the cry of the poor and that first reading today emphasizes that as well that God has a special concern for those who recognize their poverty and certainly that is referring to people who are materially poor, financially poor, but it’s not restricted just there. I think of the first Beatitude, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.’ There is a poverty of spirit that is so important for us in our spiritual lives and being poor in spirit means that we are very much aware of our need for God. That’s being poor in spirit that each one of us needs God within our own life and that was part of the message that Jesus gives in that parable today of the two men who go up to pray and the one, a pharisee, goes up and he says his prayer and it’s interesting Jesus says, ‘He prayed to himself.’ Prayed to himself because he thought he was God and so therefore, when we think we are God that we are independent that we are so self-reliant, self-sufficient that is when we pray to ourselves and he says, ‘You know, Lord look how good I am, look how good I am. Look at all the good things I do.’ And Jesus is disappointed obviously in that man because he’s just thinking about himself and he’s almost saying, ‘God how lucky you are that I’m on your side. I have all these abilities. I have all these talents. I do all these good things. How fortunate you are that I am with you!’ Unfortunately that’s a poor attitude when we approach prayer, when we approach God, but the tax collector who was a public sinner by reason of being a tax collector, he says that humble prayer, ‘Lord be merciful to me a sinner.’ And I think part of the message to this is the attitude that we bring towards prayer. I don’t think any of us are really like the pharisee who was so self-righteousness and so self-centered that he didn’t recognize truly a need for God. I don’t think we’re like that, but I’m not sure that we have the attitude of the tax collector of saying, ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner. Be merciful to me within my life.’ A lot of it has to do with the attitude that we bring to prayer. Our attitude is so important because it’s the attitude that underlies truly our prayer and unfortunately sometimes we can just be kind of complacent in our prayer. We can just kind of be going through the motions saying the words, but truly not entering personally into them. We can be complacent. We can just kind of go through the routine and that happens to us when we come to Mass and we can all be subject to this that it’s just kind of being physically present rather than actively engaged and really trying to join our lives with the sacrifice of Christ and also of recognizing what a tremendous gift the Eucharist is that Jesus comes to us personally in Holy Communion to embrace us with the gift of his life, the gift of his love. How truly blessed we are and yet we can all just go through the routine, so we are called to challenge ourselves. I think about our attitude about the spirit that we bring to our prayer not only the prayer here with the Eucharist, but the prayers that we say within our homes that it’s not just wrote to memory or physical presence, but truly active engages the mind and the heart as we seek to be open to God’s grace.
I was reminded kind of of this this last week, you know we all kind of need a sermon once in awhile and one of our second graders gave me a sermon. She did! It’s interesting. This was addressed to Fr. Tom, but I’ll share it with all of you as well. It says, ‘Believe in the Lord. Keep grace in the Lord. Go to church every Sunday. (I thought I did that, but I’m late today!) Keep holy and grace. Love the Lord. If you get lazy with your prayers, the Lord gets lazy with your blessings.’ I love that last line. If you get lazy with your prayers, the Lord gets lazy with his blessings! Beautiful wisdom from a second grader, but it’s important for us to stop and think about that attitude of prayer, that spirit that we bring to the Eucharist, to our daily prayers because the Lord wants to be generous with his blessings, but he can only bless an open mind, an open heart, one that truly is receptive to the gift of his blessings.”