Last week one of the primary subjects in the Scriptures was prayer and this week's subject was a beautiful follow-up. We all want to have the correct approach in our prayers by being humble and selfless while having them include praise, worship and thanksgiving. However for prayers to be answered two things can not be present and in fact make them void and invalid. Those two things are a proud sense of our own righteousness and contempt for others as the Pharisee in our Gospel exhibited. What is pleasing to God and I believe healthy for each of us is a humble heart as both the tax collector in the Gospel had as did St. Paul reflect in his letter to the Romans. On the surface both the Pharisee and St. Paul were confident that they were doing the correct thing but the Pharisee was conceited and believed that obeying God's Law was sufficient and it didn't make any difference that he had contempt for others, specifically the tax collector. In contrast Paul was proud of his accomplishments, was thankful for the strength and the ability God have given him to accomplish his assignment to "tell Christ's message to the Gentiles". He was confident that he had done and continued to do the correct thing and in instead of having contempt for those who didn't help him, and in fact deserted him when he was first put on trial, he hoped and prayed that God wouldn't condemn them.
He thanked God for standing beside him in all his efforts. Paul was like the tax collector recognizing that he had made mistakes like persecuting Christians and even holding the coats of those who were stoning St. Steven, the first martyr, to death but he knew that an all loving compassionate God understood would forgive him. The Pharisee was conceited and St. Paul and the tax collector were humble.
They were practicing the 3rd Beatitude. It wouldn't appear that it was true if you take the words in the New American Bible literally. It reads: "Blessed are the meek ...". In contrast the CEV (the Contemporary English Version of the New Testament which the Roman Catholic Church approves) reads: "God blesses (happy are) those who are humble ...". When I think of someone who is "meek" I visualize someone who is "wimpy". God doesn't want us to be wimpy but he wants us to be strong and confident while being humble like St. Paul. As we know Paul didn't always get along with everyone, even St. Peter but he was willing to dialog with St. Peter on items of faith on which they disagreed. Now that is a confident but yet humble man. In other instances, because of his confidence and likely because of his approach, he was run out of some towns and at other times received many lashes because of who he was while being very confident he was doing God's will in spreading Christ's truths with God's help. It wasn't because he was conceited or because of his personal pride and confidence.
There is likely a big dose of the Pharisee in us and a small dose of the tax collector and St. Paul in us. Jesus invites all of us to make a pilgrimage from pride to humility. We need to evict the Pharisee in each of us and revive or establish the attitude of the tax collector and St. Paul. It is then that our prayers will be humble and selfless while we are thankful and have love for everyone.