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October 23, 2016

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
The Lord hears the cries of the oppressed!  The teaching today is very clear:  we must come before the Lord as people who have no rights at all and only ask his mercy.  If we want to pray, we need to accept all of our failures and our brokenness.
The first reading today is from the Book of Sirach, one of the wisdom books.  These books teach us what we might call “good manners” with the Lord.  It seems obvious that if God is God and we are not God, we should come to God with humility and love and respect.  Yet we humans don’t always do that.  Far too often, we turn to God when we want something or when things are wrong or bad—almost as if we blame God for all that is bad and want God to change that.  When things are fine, we don’t need God and so we no longer spend time with God.
Sirach tells us that the prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds, it reaches to God and God answers.  We will hear this repeated in the Gospel today.  The message is for us!  How do we pray?  Are we humble or do we demand?  Do we insist on our way or place our hopes and desires in the Lord and say, with Jesus:  Your will be done!
Our second reading is from the Second Letter to Timothy.  Again we find the same lesson:  everyone else can abandon us, leaving us poor and needy, but the Lord is always with us, giving us strength.  This was the experience of Saint Paul and he shares it with us to encourage us in our Christian life.
The Gospel today, from Saint Luke, is the wonderful story of two people who go up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  Anyone in the time of Jesus would have known that a Pharisee was always faithful to the Law and to the practices of his faith.  Tax collectors were despised on all sides because they did the work for the Romans of taking money from people who had little.  The difference in their prayer is striking and should touch our hearts.  The Pharisee tells God how good he is while the tax collector simply asks for mercy because he knows that he is a sinner.
And me, what do I think of myself?  And you?  Are we able to come before the Lord and simply ask for mercy?  May it be.
Your brother in the Lord,
Abbot Philip