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March 21st - Luke 18: 9 - 14

Fr. Michael MachacekNativity of Our LordMarch 22, 2020
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About 25 years ago Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO, a monk and priest of the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, New York, introduced me to the use of the chotki, a rosary style prayer rope used by both our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters as well as the Eastern Orthodox. The chotki looks somewhat similar to our rosary, but as one works with the beads, you repeatedly pray the famous Jesus Prayer:

Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

To this day I frequently repeatedly pray the Jesus Prayer over and over - doing so allows me to set aside all my worries and concerns, and truly be aware of my surroundings, particularly when I am outside. Most of all, it helps me to focus on the presence of God. It also helps me to focus on a very fundamental reality: that I too, like everyone else, am a sinner. And I too, like everyone else, need the endless mercy of our God in my life.

I share this story because of the parable we read in today's gospel. First, we hear of a Pharisee who is in the Temple of Jerusalem. In the presence of God, all he does is basically praise himself in his prayer to God. Next we hear of a tax collector - he stands before God, and mindful of who he is and what he has done, simply prays, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner".

Jesus then reminds his listeners that the tax collector, for what he said, went home justified, but the Pharisee, with his self-delusion, did not.

When I think of that tax collector I try to picture in my mind how God must have been smiling when the man said that prayer. In so many ways he has fully opened himself up to God. He places his trust, his heart and his soul in God's hands. He is pleading to God to fully enter his life and bestow His mercy upon him. And for him God did so - and God will do so for us if we too pray with the honesty of the tax collector.

We are in the midst of a very troubled, uncertain time. It's a good time for us to take stock of all the realities of our lives - the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is also a time for us to get in touch with that profound, innate need we have for God. So we pray, again and again,

Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.