Not Like Others
A Pharisee was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector….’ But the tax collector would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Where does our greatest value come from? From how we are the same or from how we are different?
The Pharisee says that his greatest value comes from what he does for God: he prays, fasts twice a week and tithes. The Tax Collector says his greatest value is what God does for him: granting mercy.
What is the same or common for these men is that they are both God’s children. What is different is how they are living out their relationship with God and others. The Tax Collector’s prayer shows that he is closer to what is of greatest value. His appeal for mercy is a return to right relationship or union with God and therefore with others. The Pharisee’s prayer praises himself and not God, isolating him from others.
Spirituality that deepens the integration of our human condition with God’s merciful presence is humbling in the best sense. In humility’s descent we recognize our original sin but below that the original blessing that is still ours. True humility permits us to accept our created dignity, our sinful tragedy and our redeemed glory. Meeting these realities is, at the same time, humbling and exalting. Then we ascend with genuine praise of God and real compassion for others.
In their effort to pray continuously and never lose heart the ancient monks of the Egyptian desert added the name of Jesus to the words of the Tax Collector resulting in what is now called the “Jesus prayer” or the “prayer of the heart.”
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”
By praying this continuously we gently “re-mind” ourselves who we are and who God is. The comparing egoic mind is slowly humbled, or sidelined, by the mental activity of saying the words of the prayer. Compassion for ourselves and others begins to replace judgement and disdain as dominant currents of our thought.
Putting egoic survival-based thinking in its proper place is essential in discernment of a vocation to religious life or priesthood. The proper place of comparative thinking is service to the soul and its priority. The more that “what about me” thinking is present we are slipping in faith. The Jesus Prayer can help us recover our balance. By using it the deserts of our insecurity, pride and negativity can blossom with humble praise and compassion.
By Mark Blom, OMI – Vocation Director OMI Lacombe Canada