Godzdogz

Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Lent Week 3: Saturday

Saturday, April 03, 2010
Today's readings:  Hosea 2:15-6:6; Psalm 50; Luke 18:9-14

Today's parable is a wonderful trap. We can easily find ourselves, like a teacher I heard of saying to her class, 'thank God children that we are not like the Pharisee'. Catching ourselves on we might then say, 'well, actually, even if I'm not a sinner like the Publican, I'm a more sophisticated kind of sinner, more like the Pharisee, with more interesting sins, things like pride and self-righteousness and hypocrisy'. Either way we are thinking of ourselves rather than God and that seems like the opposite of what prayer is about. We are trying to solve spiritual problems mathematically when they can only be solved in suffering, prayer and love.

The parable of the two men who went up to pray in the Temple leads us into the heart of paradoxes and reversals that characterise the teaching of Jesus through and through. This is especially so as he journeys towards Jerusalem for it is in Jerusalem that he enters personally into the great paradox and enacts the great reversal. The first will be last and the last first, he taught them. The one who humbles himself will be exalted and the one who exalts himself will be humbled. The prodigal son is welcomed home in spite of the protestations of the elder brother. Love your enemies and hate your families. The one who saves his life loses it and the one who loses his life for the sake of the gospel will find it. The one who thinks he is qualified is criticised and the one who thinks he does not belong goes home having found favour with God.

The suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus is the great reversal in which all these teachings are fulfilled. In the garden of Gethsemane we will see him, a humble and humbled man brought to his knees by life. We are told that the prayer of the humble man pierces the heavens and it seems as if this prayer also is one that is not answered: 'let this cup pass me by'. But his other, deeper prayer is answered, of course, 'not my will but yours be done'. In his mathematics of the spiritual life the Pharisee needed to compare himself with the Publican as if it was some kind of competition. The humble person, on the other hand, compares himself only with God and thereby knows his own nothingness and his own greatness.

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