Hebrew and Greek have as many words for prayer as Inuit have for snow. It is interesting that the English translation has the Pharisee “speaking” words while the tax collector “prayed.” In the Greek, both are simply “saying these words.” Jesus uses the word “prayer” at the beginning of the parable. He is both teaching what the words of prayer should be, but described postures and attitudes useful and appropriate for prayer. Prayer is not so much words but a manner of holding oneself in the divine presence. To present one’s self in the presence of God, the posture of the supplicant who begins as we do the Mass with the words, “Lord, have mercy.” Literally, give alms to us, which is grace, so that we can turn from our human state of sin toward the state God originally intended for us humans.

When one looks at our times, and back through history, we humans have much to be penitent about. Nor does the future necessarily look all that hopeful. Discounting all the technological and industrial advances, none of which are necessary for the development of the human person and our core dignity, there is not much to say for us humans.

It is a bit odd that the Gospel parable is couples with St. Paul’s own boasting about his accomplishments. He is speaking in “the time of my departure is at hand.” There is somehow a difference between what Paul is writing and the boasting of th Pharisee. Paul gives the credit for his accomplishments in life to God, unlike the Pharisee. God rescues him from all the evil things happening to him. He knows he cannot do so on his own. It sounds as if in the Roman court Paul proclaimed the Gospel, or at least that is hinted at here. In times of difficulty that is the last thing on our minds, proclaiming the Gospel!

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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