Study: What parts of my life are not consistent with the Gospel? Do I say one thing and do another? Is there a part of my life that needs to be changed?
Prayer: Do I take the time to bring my fragile weaknesses to God? Do I honestly admit to the Lord that I need help and strength?
Serve: How can I be a living “mirror” to help others see more clearly? How can I do this with love and gentleness?
I once spent a day with a friend of mine who works on old homes. He upgrades the efficiency and safety of the building, while preserving the original materials and style. He showed me a home he was just starting so I could see how the process evolved.
He brought me to a beautiful home. It had an elegant garden, a well cared-for appearance, and a fresh coat of paint. I looked at him and said, “What’s wrong? The house looks great!”
He replied by taking out of his van an infrared camera, pointed it toward the house, and said, “Now look at the house through this. What do you see?” As I gazed through the camera I noticed that the house was one large orangish-red haze, with bright red spots everywhere.
He looked at me and said, “The red you see is from the escaping heat. The house is beautiful, but it is bleeding energy. Sometimes you have to look with a different lens if you want to see clearly.”
Looking at houses taught me that there is often more to something then first meets the eye. In the Gospel today, Luke shows two men who go to the temple area to pray. The first man, a Pharisee relates to God the many good things he is doing, speaking as an upright citizen who fasts and tithes.
The second man is a tax collector, a person often despised by the community for greedy and dishonest practices. The tax collector makes no boast of his good deeds – he has none. All he asks is for God’s mercy upon his sinful life.
Normally, people would point to the Pharisee and say he is a good person while the tax collector is wicked. Yet Jesus points out that only one man’s prayers were heard. The tax collector went home justified, not because of his actions, but because he recognized that without God’s help he was beyond mercy and hope.
The Pharisee’s actions were acceptable and correct, but because he trusted that the efforts were enough, he failed to realize that he too was a sinner in need of God’s grace. While his actions were right his trust was misplaced; he believed that by himself he could gain God’s favor.
Life teaches us that not everything is as it seems. May we open our eyes in our prayer to acknowledge those times when we have fallen short of God’s mercy, recognizing our need for the Lord in our lives. And may we do the same for those who – in their weakness – cross our path each day.