I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | We, the lowly, cry out to God from our poverty

Related Articles: 

The responsorial psalm ties together the good news of all three readings for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, which tell that the Lord is deeply moved by the prayers of the lowly.

In the first reading, Sirach says God shows no favorites "but He hears the cry of the oppressed....The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds."

The poor aren't so much distracted by lack of life's essentials, as they are empowered by that lack to turn to God in poverty. Their poverty creates within them both room and hunger for God. They are single-minded in their search for God. He alone provides for them what they need to remain alive.

For the destitute and starving, God isn't an optional extra, but the only source of goodness that keeps them alive and reveals God's purpose for their lives.

The psalmist prays, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall be ever in my mouth. Let my soul glory in the Lord; the lowly will hear me and be glad."

Wasn't this also the cry of the lowly virgin of Nazareth who exclaimed, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord...for He has looked upon His handmaid's lowliness"? She who was conceived without sin had such a clear vision of her poverty before God. Her poverty welcomed the Most Holy Trinity long before she was asked to give birth to the Messiah.

Paul also recognizes his poverty in his trial, when, like Jesus, even his friends deserted him. "But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength....I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to His heavenly kingdom."

Who are today's lowly crying out to God from their poverty? Aren't they those who struggle daily to beg for food to get them through the day? Aren't they those who are struggling valiantly against the addictions of pornography and alcoholism? Aren't they the single parents who have been abandoned by their spouses in providing for the ongoing needs of their children?

God is in the midst of their struggle. If not for God inspiring them in their struggle, they would give up hope and simply despair. Their life's struggle has taught them the value of humility and dependence upon God.

In the Gospel, Jesus addresses those who rely upon their own self-righteousness. The self-proclaimed "holy" Pharisee praises himself for his own goodness before God. He proudly thanks God that he is "not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income."

On the other hand, the tax collector, who knows his own past history of sinfulness, simply "beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.'" Jesus tells us that this tax collector went home justified, forgiven of his sins.

Why do we find it so difficult to admit our sinfulness to a God who delights in hearing the cry of the poor? Might it be related to our years as a young child with our parents? If we did something wrong, we could expect at least a mild reprimand. Perhaps in addition to a reprimand, we also experienced the withholding of affections from our parents.

Hence, to avoid the pain of rejection, we would cover up and deny wrongdoing. The mistake we make is to transfer to God the same behavior we experienced from our parents. In such a case, denial is mistakenly perceived as an apparent freedom from guilt.

However, the big lie we subconsciously bought into was to equate our parents' attitudes toward our mistakes with God's attitude toward us when we sin. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Once we understand that God expresses His love for us through the forgiveness of sin, then we will more readily admit our sins. Try thinking about this: You should receive as much joy coming out of the confessional as you do in receiving His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.

Jesus told us there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than there is over 99 righteous people.

So if we want to bring joy to heaven, let us beg of Jesus the grace to see our sinfulness for what it really is. We need to develop a healthy distrust of self and a greater trust in Jesus. St. Philip Neri said, "O Lord, keep your hand this day over Philip, if you do not, Philip will betray you."

The Little Flower had a very healthy attitude. She indicated that if God were to reveal to her that she was the greatest sinner in the world, she would run to Him, throw herself into His lap, confident that He would forgive her everything. Asking God for His mercy brings us relief.

The more we ask Jesus to show us our sinfulness, the more humility brings us relief. Our friendship with Jesus simply deepens. We then experience a deeper compassion for our fellow travelers, family members and work associates. We will grow in our desire to show others the compassion which Christ shows us. Compassion is so much more fun than resentment and angry judgments.

Should you admit that your heart is consumed with bitterness and cry out to God from the depths of your heart like the publican in the temple, you too will go home justified. 

No votes yet