Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Luke 18:9-14 Look At Him!

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.

What the Pharisee said.  "O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity - greedy, dishonest, adulterous - or even like this tax collector."

Does anyone really pray like this?  Honestly, I don't know anyone who does, but I must admit this is how we often talk about ourselves:  very fondly.

And maybe that's the Lord's point.  Is this Pharisee really praying?  Of course not.  What he is doing is going over his résumé.  And to him, it looks pretty darn impressive. 

But for someone who has read a lot of resumes, and has hired and fired a few people, as soon as I read this, I said to myself, "This is too good to be true."  And it is.  It's all one-sided.

Are your prayers all one-sided?

Let's examine for a moment this Pharisees' prayer.

Thank God I'm not like him.  As the Pharisee took his place and looked around, he got a good look at the brutal reality of sin.  But instead of being humbled by the experience, he became boastful.  Rather than saying, "Thank God I am not like these others," he should have said, "There, but for the grace of God go I." That would have been better, a lot better.  How could he not have known this?  Wasn't he an expert in the Law?  Doesn't he know human nature?

Not yet.  When your child shouts to you and says, "Mom!  Look at that guy with all those tattoos!"  The best thing to say is to them is, "Honey, wait until you grow up."  When your teen makes fun of the old folks, the best thing to say to them is, "Honey, just wait."  When your son makes fun of all the fat people, just say to him, "Did you ever see a picture of your dad when he was your age?" 

The Lord is the perennial Teacher.  He is constantly educating us, illuminating us and, most importantly, humbling us. 

When you read the newspaper and are shocked at what you find, be careful.  It's easy to say "I would never do that!"  Be humble and say "Thank God not yet."  This will help you to remain vigilant at all times, for you are no different than others, and what you read about others could easily happen to you, especially if you found yourself in their shoes. 

When I was boy, I thought someone had to be out of their minds to break one of the commandments.  Then I became a teenager.  When I was a seminarian, I believed other seminarians were just excusing themselves by questioning their vocation.  Then I experienced my own wave of doubts.  When I was a priest, I thought some priests were just plain lazy.  Then I grew old. 

This tax collector.    The Pharisee made one fundamental error in his prayer:  he compared himself to the wrong person.   A tax collector.  How convenient of him.  It was an easy target, a soft target.  The wrong target.  Why?  Because maybe the tax collector never received the education he received.  Maybe the tax collector went to a public school all his life.  Maybe he grew up poor.  Maybe his parents were poor, very poor.  Maybe he grew up on mean, very mean, streets. 

Regardless, the Pharisee's comparison is a low blow, a cheap comparison, equivalent to that of a child and an ant. 

Like children, ants always have to be careful.  They are the small kid on the block.  They always have to look over their "shoulder" and look up. They always have to give the right of way to others.  And like children, their biggest enemies are children.  Since kids can't beat up on their big brother or mom or dad, they go after the little guy, an ant.  So what does a child do to an ant?  As soon as he sees it he steps on it.  And then he smiles.  Maybe even pounds his chest. 

This is exactly what the Pharisee did.  He started beating up on the little guy.   

Do you do that?  Do you compare yourself to ants, to the little people?  Do you step all over them?  "I wanna talk to the store manager!"  "I'm gonna sue you!"  "I'm gonna get you fired."  "Wait until you hear from my lawyer."

Do you not realize you were called to be like Christ.  "As the Father loves me, so I love you... Love one another as I have loved you."    If we are to compare ourselves to anyone, then it should be to Christ.

Stop judging!  Stop condemning!  If there is one common thread throughout the Pharisee's "prayer", it is his remarkable ability to judge others so succinctly, so neatly and so harshly. 

So why shouldn't he judge the tax collector?  Simple.  Because he doesn't have all the evidence.  He doesn't know him from the inside out.  This is the reason why we should never judge anyone, and this is the reason why God can judge everyone.  He know everyone inside and out.

We will never have all the information.  But I know what you are thinking:  I can't help myself!  I know.  I can't either.  So what can we do?  Well, we can still judge, but only if we always come up with the same conclusion all the time; that is, this person really needs my help. 

It is divine to err on the life-giving side than on the life-ending side.

Let us avoid jumping to conclusions.  Watch out!  An old monk recently told me what his old Irish grandmother once told him:  "The one exercise we do most in our life is jumping to conclusions."

The fruit of personal prayer is get closer to the Lord.  Where is the Lord?  "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves" (cf. Psalm 34).  If you want to get closer to God, then a good shortcut would be to get closer to the brokenhearted. 

Let's pray for others, not condemn them.  Let's help others, not hurt them.  In this way, we will be close to God and neighbor.


  1. Father Alfonse - In my opinion, this is one of the best homilies you've ever given!! I felt so blessed to see and hear you preach live this morning. Like you said at the beginning of your homily, this Sunday's readings are truly beautiful. So many different ways to reflect........In the sea of fellow parishioners, I forgot to THANK-YOU for the amazing positive impact you've had on my life and the lives of others. You are by far one of the best homilists in our diocese. My fave day of the week is a Saturday night or Sunday morning when I can attend one of your Masses. You make me smile, laugh, think, and even sometimes cry. The Holy Spirit works through you in amazing ways.....lots of surprises thrown in to make life interesting!

    God Bless You!


  2. The Lord is the perennial Teacher. He is constantly educating us, illuminating us and, most importantly, humbling us.

    How incredibly true! Thanks for a great meditation!


  3. I work in a youth ministry program. About a month ago, a young, pretty woman comes in to register two of her children. They are older children and have not received their sacraments, only baptism. She also told me that when her third son was born, he almost died so he was baptized in the hospital, but no document was given, thus she has no proof that he was baptized. She needed to know how to move forward in getting him the other sacraments. I told her I didn’t have the answer but we could talk to someone who knew. The phones were wacko that day, so I was going to walk her to the correct office. She saw that we were terribly busy with other families, and didn’t want to take time away from me. But I insisted to walk together to find out answers for her. (If this was Jesus, was I going to give up this chance?) We just walked and talked together, found out all the answers to her questions and were walking back to my office. When we got back to my office, she stopped me and held my hands. With tears in her eyes she said, “I lost my faith years ago, when I found out my husband was having an affair at the same time my baby was dying in the hospital. I came here to enroll only my kids into your church program. I had no intention of coming back myself. But I have found a great peace in just talking to you. I realize that God is calling me too back to the Church.”
    I am truly convinced that God’s Will is in our everyday circumstances. I do not have to go and find someone to convert / love / talk to about God. The ones that God wants me to share His Love with are those that I meet / see every day.
    However, now that God has put this special person in my life, I must go and continue this relationship so that we can encourage one another to live out His Gospel!
    A line from a very committed Catholic that I believe is so very true: If I do not continue to build up my most difficult relationship, it is a sin of omission. I love this line!
    Father, you have an incredible gift! Thank you for sharing it with us!


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