The Pope focused his reflections on three figures in this Sunday’s readings: a Pharisee, a tax collector, and a poor person. Each of them tells us something about how to pray, and suggests the kind of prayer that is “pleasing to God”.
The prayer of the Pharisee
Pope Francis said the Pharisee begins well by giving thanks to God, “because the best prayer is that of gratitude and praise”. Immediately afterwards, though, he adds he is grateful because he is “not like other men”. Filled with self-assurance “about his own ability to keep the commandments, his own merits and virtues, he is focused only on himself. He is without love”, said the Pope.
The Pharisee “ends up praising himself instead of praying”, continued Pope Francis. He stands in the temple of God, “but the one he worships is himself”. He forgets both God and his neighbour, considering others mere “leftovers” from which to keep one’s distance.
How many times do those in prominent positions “raise up walls to increase distances, making other people feel even more rejected”, despising their traditions, erasing their history, occupying their lands, and usurping their goods, asked the Pope. “How much alleged superiority, transformed into oppression and exploitation, exists even today”?
The prayer of the tax collector
The prayer of the tax collector, on the other hand, “helps us understand what is pleasing to God”, said Pope Francis. He begins with his own shortcomings, admitting he is “poor before God”. He stands far off and beats his breast, because that is where the heart is. “His prayer is born from the heart”, said the Pope.“To pray is to stand before God’s eyes, without illusions, excuses or justifications”, continued Pope Francis. “Darkness and lies come from the devil”, he added. “Light and truth come from God”.
Looking at the tax collector, said the Pope, we rediscover where to start: “from the conviction that we, all of us, are in need of salvation”. To consider ourselves righteous is to leave God “out in the cold”, he said.
We are all “a bit tax collectors because we are sinners and a bit Pharisees because we are presumptuous”, he said. “This may often work with ourselves, but not with God”. We do well to associate with the poor, said the Pope, “to remind ourselves that we are poor”, and that “the salvation of God operates only in an atmosphere of interior poverty”.
The prayer of the poor person
Finally, the prayer of the poor person, said the Pope, is one that “rises directly to God”. In the words of Sirach, “it will reach to the clouds”. The poor “did not put themselves ahead of others” in this life, explained Pope Francis. “They had their wealth in God alone”, and are “living icons of Christian prophecy”.The Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region “had the grace of listening to the voices of the poor and reflecting on the precariousness of their lives, threatened by predatory models of development”, said Pope Francis.
The Pope concluded praying for the grace “to be able to listen to the cry of the poor: this is the cry of hope of the Church”, he said. “When we make their cry our own, our prayer too will reach to the clouds”.
The face of the Amazon
“In the scarred face of the Amazon”, said Pope Francis, we have seen how “the mistakes of the past were not enough to stop the plundering of other persons and the inflicting of wounds on our brothers and sisters and on our sister earth”. Worship of self continues hypocritically with its rites and prayers, he said, “forgetting the true worship of God which is always expressed in love of one’s neighbour”. The Pope prayed for the grace “not to consider ourselves superior”, not to become “cynical and scornful”. Let us ask Jesus “to heal us of despising this or that person”, he said. “These things are displeasing to God”.
The Synod also heard those who testified that it is possible to treat the created world “not as a resource to be exploited, but as a home to be preserved, with trust in God”.