From Father's Desk

Dear Parish Family,

The Gospel means “good news,” literally “news that brings joy!” This is the second week in our Good News Message Series. This week we focus on the good news about mercy and humility.

Today in the Gospel, two men arrive at the temple to pray. One has confidence in himself, the other in God. One is thankful for his own goodness, the other thankful - nay hopeful - that God is good. One compares himself (favorably) to others. The other compares himself to no one, but merely admits his need. In this case, we see two very different beatings of the breast. The Pharisee pounds his chest like Tarzan: triumphant, confident, energetic and assured. The tax collector beats his breast in humility, reparation and sorrow.

Through the centuries, in fact, this simple prayer, "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner," has been taken up as a complete summary of Christian prayer. It is the heart of Eastern Christian spirituality. Last week Jesus encouraged us to pray unceasingly without becoming weary (Lk 18:1). These words became the key to constant prayer for many Christians before the rosary gained popularity in the West. Here is a powerful quote from that Eastern way:

“Every Christian must always remember that he should unite with the Lord our Savior with all his being, letting Him come and dwell in his mind and in his heart; and the surest way to achieve this union with the Lord, next to Communion of His Flesh and Blood, is the inner Jesus Prayer” (From, The Art of  Prayer, 88.) Think about that. Next to receiving our Lord in the holy Eucharist, praying these sweet words with fervor and zeal is the next best thing: “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!”

Crying out for mercy is really at the heart of recognizing our need for God. It is a simple prayer to say, you are God and I am not. In other words, that we need God to be God in our lives. This admission requires humility. So Jesus concludes, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

At the beginning of each holy Mass, we are invited to prepare ourselves for worship by calling to mind our sins and thus our need for the mercy of God. It is a beautiful moment to humble ourselves, to open our hearts, to recognize the need we have that only God can fill. Over the course of these weeks we are reintroducing one of the acts of penitence the Church offers for our prayer. To my mind it places real emphasis on God’s mercy and our need for forgiveness, for wholeness.

The priest says: Have mercy on us O Lord! People: For we have sinned against you. Priest: Show us O Lord your mercy! People: And grant us your salvation!

My prayer for you this week is that your hearts are truly open in humility to receive God’s abundant mercy!

Yours in the Lord,
Fr. Joel