THIRTIETH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (C)
"The Lord is a God of justice, who knows no favorites." This is the first line from the first reading today, from Sirach. The Lord knows no favorites. Jesus instructs us to call God our Father (Christ used the word Abba, which actually comes closer in meaning to "Daddy" than the more formal "Father"). So we can think of God as the perfect parent, and of course a good parent does not have favorites among his children; he loves them each the same. In God's case, He loves us each with an infinite love.
We can also think of God having no favorites in a different way. St. Terese of Lisieux, the "Little Flower," is so called because she felt she could not be compared to the great giants of the faith such as St. Terese of Avila or St. John of the Cross (both also members of her Carmelite order). Those holy people were like giant trees, reaching close to God. She, on the other hand, was more like the little flower on the forest floor.
But you know what? The sun shines equally on the giant tree and the little flower. And so God's grace shines the same on the great and the small alike. In fact, it is the one who has smallness of spirit, that child-like humility, that can feel and appreciate God's love all the more. It is the one with child-like humility who recognizes that he or she needs help. It is the child-like spirit that knows it cannot achieve holiness on its own. It is the child who looks, with trust and adoration, into his or her father's eyes and says, "Carry me."
The haughty spirit does not ask for help. And so the haughty do not receive it. So even though God has no favorites, this is why we read in the scriptures that He especially hears the prayers of the poor, the weak, and the oppressed. You don't have to be poor, weak or oppressed to be humble before God, but those who are tend to be more inclined to that humility. They know they need help. And so they are ready to ask for it.
Today Jesus tells us of two men offering prayers before God. One, the Pharisee, an intelligent and religious man, even in his prayers of thanksgiving exalts himself by saying how glad he is that he is not like other, weaker and less fortunate men. Jesus poignantly says the Pharisee "prays to himself." Even in his prayers, he is self focused.
But the humble man in Jesus' story prays to God. And his prayer is simple. "O God, have mercy on me, a sinner." It is the prayer of someone who knows he needs help and is not too proud to ask for it.
This is the path to holiness. This is the path to God. We are natural creatures with supernatural destinies. On our own we are not capable of achieving the greatness for which we were made. Our path to glory begins by asking for help. God desperately wants to help us to come to Him. But He is limited by His own respect for us - He will not violate our free will and force Himself on us. We waits to be invited. He waits for us to ask Him, "Abba, Daddy... carry me."