Weekend Reflections for 10/21/16
In the very poignant parable in this Sunday’s Gospel of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus’ point is so clear that the less said about it the better. What else stands out for me, besides it’s obvious message , is the very simple prayer of the tax collector: ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ As I mentioned in the reflection a few weeks ago, I have the privilege of hearing a lot of confessions. A challenge for many people is what is known as the act of contrition.
Many people years ago have learned a somewhat long and involved prayer. My concern is that in their attempt to remember it they do not appreciate the main import of the prayer. For me it is simply to tell God I very sorry for my sins, I ask for your forgiveness, and I will endeavor to avoid these evils in the future. In its own way I see the tax collector’s prayer doing this. Evidently Jesus did as well because he says that the person went away justified.
However in my confession work I do hear many other kinds of contrition prayers which for me are quite adequate. For example:
a) Oh my God, I am sorry for my sins because I have offended you. I know I should love you above all things. Help me to do penance, to do better, and to avoid anything that might lead me to sin. Amen.
b. Oh God, I am heartily sorry for my sins. I love you very much and I will try to do better.
c. Oh my God I'm sorry for my sins in choosing to do wrong and failing to do good.
d. I have sinned against you and your Church, and I firmly intend, with the my help of your Son, to make up for my sins and to love as I should.
It is also noteworthy to me that the tax collector does not spell out what his sins are. Also in other places in the gospel when Jesus forgives sins, he too seeks no such enumeration. For legitimate pastoral reasons our church does ask us to mentioned them out as well as we can. But Jesus’ example reminds us that the heart of the matter is acknowledging the fact that I am a sinner in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness; and I beg and pray for this.
Jim Blumeyer, SJ