Every moment of prayer, in addition to being supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or intercession, is a moment of truth. It’s a moment where we acknowledge who we are before God, who is immune to all spin, all subterfuge, all self-promotion. It’s a moment where we ask ourselves whether God’s view of us and our view of ourselves coincide. We know this is not easy, because Our Lord knows us better than we know ourselves. Despite this, we know deep down that lowering our estimation of ourselves is probably more in line than increasing it. Nevertheless, humility is a sound knowledge of self; we don’t navigate self-exploration alone. Those we trust help us to evaluate ourselves, and the Lord above all in every moment of sincere prayer.
Our Lord promises us that if we “aim low” we’ll receive the recognition that counts: his recognition. The tax collector in today’s Gospel knew he was a sinner; Our Lord didn’t deny that in the parable of today’s Gospel. The tax collector knew he needed mercy and didn’t deserve it. Prayer in that moment for him was a moment of truth: the truth he claimed was the truth as Our Lord saw it. He received mercy from God for his interior honesty. It’s not surprising that today’s Gospel says the Pharisee “spoke [his] prayer to himself”: it could just mean he didn’t say his prayer out loud, but it could mean that we was so wrapped up in smug self-worship that he really was praying to himself. Our Lord says he did not go home justified like the tax collector; he’d really accomplished nothing of worth and just went home.
Lent is a time of prayer. Let’s make it a moment of truth where Our Lord helps us to see ourselves in the depths of our heart as we truly are. It will make us abase ourselves so that he can raise us up with his love and mercy.
Reading: Hosea 6:1–6; Psalm 51:3–4, 18–19, 20–21b; Luke 18:9–14.