The Jesus Prayer
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
How is it you address God? With what attitude do you approach Jesus? Perhaps as we approach the half-way point of Lent, this can be a time for us to think of these questions. Are we proud of ourselves, because we have had the willpower to do something? Or do we recognize that the season of Lent is really about allowing God to change our minds and hearts, seeking his forgiveness for all of our sins?
Do we let Jesus save us? Or is it the case that we really just think that if we work hard enough, put in enough effort, expend enough energy we can save ourselves? Notice how often the Pharisee uses the word “I”. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
I am sure he thought to himself that this was all he needed to do. To focus on all he had done for God. To tell God just how amazing he was. To list off his great talents, all good things of the Law in and of themselves, and yet somehow, they failed to achieve their purpose in the life of the Pharisee. They failed to achieve their end. They failed to help the Pharisee what more still needed to be done.
The publican, the tax collector, he knew of his sinfulness. He knew of his frailty. He knew he needed a Savior precisely because he could not do things on his own. He needed Jesus. He needed a Savior.
We do not know what led to the publican’s recognition he needed a Savior. Had he just heard Jesus? Was there a rabbi who inspired him? We do not know. But we do know that he is an example because of his humility.
Keeping the commandments are a start, but in and of themselves alone they do not produce a loving relationship. Why? Becuase the commandments form a fence around our actions, but they do not save us. It is only God’s grace that can save us. It is why Jesus said the young man who had kept all the commandments and yet still needed to do more. He needed to sell what he had and give to the poor.
What more do we have to do? What is our attitude when we come to Jesus? Is it the case that we know we need a Savior? Is it the case we believe God can save us? Recognizing how prayer, fasting and almsgiving can help us to love God more and love our neighbor more also helps us to adopt the docile and humble stance of the tax collector. Without God, we can do nothing. We cannot save ourselves. Only Jesus saves. And that is Good News indeed.
On the friar, you can listen to our homilies (based on the readings of the day) and reflections. You can also ask us to pray for you or to pray for others. You can subscribe to our website to be informed whenever we publish an update.