Many of us have our own special routine for prayer. Perhaps you begin your prayer time with a nice cup of coffee as you sit in a comfy chair and read scriptures or a devotional book. Or perhaps, you like to go on a stroll with your rosary in your hands. Recently, I found a very refreshing prayer. It goes like this, “So far today, God, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped. I haven’t lost my temper. Haven’t been grumpy, nasty or selfish. I’m really glad of that. But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed, and from then on, I’m probably going to need a lot of help. Thank you! Amen.” It’s a very honest and humble prayer, isn’t it?
How many of us after a good prayer period or even attending mass, fall right back into doing the very thing we want to stop? That’s the story of our lives, isn’t it? We know that when we go to church, we expect to find holy and spotless people who look at each other with friendly eyes. We want to see people who look for the good in each other and who are willing to readily excuse the not so good. In church we don’t expect to encounter people who look at others with hostile eyes, who are looking for faults in others, and who get disappointed if they can’t find faults. In church we don’t expect people who look at another with indifferent eyes, who don’t care one way or the other when they see other’s efforts, sadness, and even tears.
In today’s gospel when Jesus entered the house of a leading Pharisee, he was greeted with cold, critical attitudes. Jesus could see that the people at supper were sizing each other up--who was up and who was down, who was in and who was out. I wonder what Jesus sees in us as we gather in this church at this Eucharistic supper. Does he see us falling into the trap of sizing each other up--who’s got it made, who’s pitiable, who’s despicable? Does he see us pretending or aspiring to be someone who we are not?
For Jesus, the Church is His Bride, and he knows her very well. His bride the Church is holy and sinful, spotless and tainted. It is Jesus who washed her in cleansing water and took her to himself with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. The Church too is a group of sinful, confused, anguished people constantly tempted by the powers of lust and greed and always entangled in rivalry and competition. When we say that the Church is a body, we refer not only to the holy and faultless body made Christ-like through baptism and Eucharist but also to the broken bodies of all the people who are its members. Only when we keep both these ways of thinking and speaking together can we live in the Church as true followers of Jesus.
For Jesus, spiritual greatness has nothing to do with being greater than others. It has everything to do with being as great as each of us can be. True sanctity is precisely accepting our weakness and relying on Jesus every step of the way. Do not compare yourself with others, who seem to skip along their life-paths with ease. Their journeys have been different from yours. Jesus has one request for each of us when we begin to compare ourselves to others and become saddened. He reminds us that we become saddened and envious when we compare ourselves with others too long. He encourages us to look at him instead. There is an old spiritual hymn called, “Turn Yours Eyes Upon Jesus,” that brings us back to the right focus.
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!
His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!