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In today’s gospel parable, Jesus reminds us that God hears the prayers of those, who approach Him with humility and humbleness. The Pharisee faithfully observed all his obligations as a good Jew: he prayed always, he fasted, and he gave alms. In his prayer, he said, “I thank you because I am not like the rest of humanity: greedy, dishonest, and adulterous – or even like this tax collector.” The Pharisee did many good things but he had an entirely wrong and negative attitude. He was doing the right things but in a wrong, narrow, and ego minded way; he was a totally self-centered person and lacked compassion and mercy for others.

On the other hand, the tax collector was considered as a sinner and a bad person, collecting all the taxes from the poor people. The tax collector stood at the back of the temple and would not even lift his eyes to God; he confessed his sins and humbly asked for God’s grace and mercy. His prayer was short but to the point! His humble prayer won him acceptance before God. His only virtue was his humility, which helped him to repent and ask for mercy and forgiveness. He prayed not about himself but to God, “O God, be merciful to me; I am a sinner.” This is the key point of the prayer.

Let me share with you a small story about the power of prayer: A farmer had two daughters. The elder daughter was married to a farmer and the younger daughter was married to a potter. The father used to visit both daughters frequently. During one of his visits, the elder daughter requested him to pray for rains for growing crops, which needed more water. He agreed to pray for more rain. Then he visited his younger daughter and she told him that they wanted more sunshine to get their clay pots dried in the sun so she wanted him to pray for more sunshine without rain. The poor father was in great confusion because both daughters were asking him to pray for just the opposite prayer request. Finally, he took a bold decision and prayed, “God, do as you wish; May your will be done.” Actually, this is a beautiful prayer that is asking God’s will and not my will. God knows what is best for us but we can keep asking with faith, hope, and humbleness.

A news reporter once asked St. Mother Teresa: “Mother, have you ever been tempted to be proud?” Mother replied with a smile, “Proud about what?” The reporter replied, “About the wonderful things you have been doing for the poorest of the poor?” Mother said, “I never knew I had done any wonderful things, because it was God who worked in and through my sisters and volunteers.” What a beautiful and humble answer! If we are proud of our talents, our reputations, or our achievements in life, today’s gospel tells us that we need Jesus to free us from our pride and make us truly humble person.

For those who justify themselves, there is a no room for them to restore God’s grace. God cannot give grace to them because they are not ready to receive it; they are too filled with pride and with their self-centered lives. But, if we are truly humble, we will find God’s grace, mercy, and peace. We must keep our focus totally on our relationships with God and recognize that we are constantly in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness! Let us admit, like the tax collector, that we are sinners and by praying with the tax collector, “O God, be merciful to me; I am a sinner!”