Step #1: Lectio / Read
Click the link below or open your Bible to the passage and read through the reading at least once, paying attention to what is happening in the text.
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
Use the following meditation to help you reflect more deeply on the Scripture (you may want to read the passage again).
Today’s Gospel is one of Jesus’ many instructions on prayer. The Our Father gets the rightful pride of place in our tradition for how to pray to God, but today Jesus gives us another, less famous prayer: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” It is simple, it is challenging, and it is prayer altering.
When God gives us the language to pray to him, it causes me to stop and ponder: “Why does Jesus give us these words to imitate, and how do my prayers align with the words or intentions of Jesus’ instruction?”
In prayer, do you lead with your weakness and need, or do you lead with your strength and virtue?
At the heart of Jesus’ parable is this powerful question. The Pharisee begins his prayer with everything he is good at, does well, or is better at than others. The Pharisee comes before God highlighting how awesome he is, and thus isn’t really focused on God, but on himself. His prayer is from a place of pride.
The tax collector, on the other hand, begins and ends his prayer with his weakness and need “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” He doesn’t claim to have earned God’s love, mercy, or relationship, but rather is totally conscious of a need for God’s mercy on account of his poverty and sin. The tax collector prays because he needs it; his very life depends on it, and he knows it. He wears no masks before God, and opens his heart. He leads with his weakness and he is heard.
How do we pray? Do we lead with our weakness before God? Do we come to God aware of our total need for him, and pray from a heart that is weak, humble, and hungry? Or, like the Pharisee, do we approach God by highlighting all of the good deeds we do, prayers we say, virtues we have, people we aren’t like, and offering to God all the things we are amazing at?
It is hard to pray from our weakness. It is hard to pray from the places in our life, our past, and our character that are still far from Christ-like. It is humbling to come before God as we actually are, not as how we try to appear on social media, at school, or at work. While it is hard, this is exactly how Jesus wants us to come to him in prayer. Why? Because it is the only way to really pray, it is where prayer from the heart begins.
When the mask comes off, true relationship can begin. The reading says the tax collector was justified and exalted because his prayer was proper. Christ wants to transform us in the same way through our prayer, if we only let him. We let Christ begin the transformation when we pray from our weakness and need for God.
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
These questions are to be used to talk to God; have a conversation with the Lord about these questions and what is going on in your heart as you pray today.
When you come to prayer, do you begin from your weakness and need?
How can you in humility present to God your heart, weakness and all, more fully in prayer?
What is on your heart right now that you need to bring before the Lord? In your weakness, where do you need his strength today?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
In this step, you listen. Stop talking, let God speak to your heart. You may repeat one of these short phrases to focus your mind on the Lord.
"Jesus, I trust in you."
"You power is made perfect in my weakness."
"You are enough."
Step #5: Actio / Act
In light of today's reading and your time spent in prayer with the Lord, what concrete action or actions will you take to let this encounter with the Lord bear fruit in you today?
In order to help your heart turn outward today, compliment at least 3 people in your life. Tell them the things you admire about them, things that they're good at, and ways that you look up to them. Don't ask for anything in return and don't make a big deal out of it; just look at others and acknowledge the good in them.
Smartphone Lock Screen
The following image is here for you to save and use as a background or lock screen on your smartphone or device to help you carry today's Lectio Divina with you the rest of the day.
Today’s Prayer was prepared by Jon Polce, a Jesuit Scholastic and current high school theology teacher.
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