Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, `God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
As we reflect on this parable in the context of our global health and financial crises, it speaks to us about the need for our prayers to move right past piety to breast-beating reality. God be merciful to us – all of us!! This is the time for us to seriously embrace the reality that we are inextricably interconnected as a global community. In these times, loving our neighbors takes on a whole new meaning.
I hope you are looking for “the helpers” as Mister Rogers called them, and that those who are able are serving as helpers to those most vulnerable in our midst. The many acts of kindness and grace and compassion are all around us if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. Regardless of whether you are on the front lines or in some form of home shelter or medical care, prayer is an essential means through which we stay connected to God and one another. It is also a source of hope and strength in uncertain times.
In her book Amazing Grace, Kathleen Norris shares this about prayer. “The ancient monks understood that a life of prayer would manifest itself in relationships with others. ‘If prayer is a matter of concern to you,’ said the sixth-century monk John Climacus, ‘then show yourself to be merciful.’ As ‘a dialog and a union with God,’ he said, ‘prayer has the effect of [holding] the world together.’”
We may not be able to see where all of this will lead, but we know that God will be with us. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Blessings and in faith,
O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer)
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