20 September 2018; Pray Thyself

Children saying their bedtime prayers at night

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs

Reading 11 Cor 15:1-11; Gospel Lk 7:36-50

In today’s Gospel, we see the act of the sinful woman wiping the feet of Jesus with her hair. Jesus compliments her by saying that from the time he entered inside, she has not refrained from kissing his feet. The natural question is: Why didn’t she bring a towel? She had brought an alabaster jar of perfume and knew that she would have to wipe the feet of Jesus. But she was wiping with her hair. Why so? Because I think she was trying to express her love to Jesus through ways she knows. Bible says that she was a sinner – prostitute!  She uses her hair and kisses Jesus continuously. These could be the ways known to her to express her love. And Jesus appreciates her for that. God is always pleased with the simple prayers that arise from human minds rather than the highly theological formulations of prayer. He was pleased with the prayer of the publican: “Lord! I am a sinner.” He performed miracles with the little boy who gave him five loaves of bread and two fish, for he gave all that he had. He was pleased with the widow’s mite than the rich offerings. Look at the prayer that Jesus taught: there are no highly theological compositions here. It is so plain yet so marvelous because it came from the mouth of the one who knew the Father. We all know of the famous story wherein Psalm 22 was sung beautifully by a singer. After that it was sung by a priest. The song of the singer was appreciated and that of the priest was admired. After that the singer got up and said: I know the song while the priest knows the shepherd.

Today’s passage is an invitation to pray as we are. There is no artificiality before God. It is not the quantity of prayer but the quality of prayer that matters. How much involved are we in our prayers? Jesus says ‘It is not those who say Lord! Lord! Who will enter the kingdom of God.’ While praying, the dictum could be ‘pray thyself.’ Be yourself when you come in front of the Lord. Babbling prayers should lead to qualitative involvement in prayer. Jesus considered the wiping with hair and kissing the feet as the best form of prayer that the sinner woman could make. How do I pray? Does it come from my heart?

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