“Apart from God You Can Do Nothing”

Flickr User Kate Ter Haar

By Melanie Blaszczak, Fiat Ventures

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Every now and then, I like to think about what qualities I have that I can work on.  One negative quality that I have is being too self-reliant. I always tell myself that I am being independent and proactive, but deep down I know that I need to trust others and most importantly, trust God more in my life. One very wise brother shared a story with me to help me overcome this struggle in my life. He told me his spiritual director of many, many years told him, “apart from God you can do nothing…what part of nothing don’t you understand!?” This self-reliance is not the way that God wants you or me to live. He wants each one of us to trust in Him. But not just say we trust in Him, but really unreservedly trust .

In this week’s Gospel Jesus tells about a parable about two people, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Both of these people pray to God. The Pharisee prays with self-righteousness and pride in his heart saying, “O God I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity.” The tax collector, on the other hand, prays with humility and begs the Lord for mercy. Right off the bat, we as Christians know that the Lord wants us to act like the tax collector instead of the Pharisee, but there is something deeper that the Lord wants us to see in this parable. It takes true humility to get over yourself and say, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner,” just like the tax collector said in the parable.

Many times we strive to be like the tax collector but we fall short of that desire and we find ourselves just like the Pharisee, self-righteous and self-reliant. In this Gospel, Jesus looks deeper to the heart of both the Pharisee and tax collector and sees that unlike the tax collector the Pharisee trusted in his own merits and failed to trust the Lord and it made him glorify himself instead of glorifying the Lord. But the tax collector did not rely on his own merits he didn’t even feel worthy of looking up at God. He glorified the Lord in that humility.

This week let us pray to be more like the tax collector that showed great humility for the cry of his heart was pure and honest. Let us all pray with the tax collector, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner” because we all fall short of God’s glory but our hope as Christians is Jesus. He is the one who redeems us. Jesus is also challenging us to a deeper realization of the parts of our heart where we do not trust the Lord wholeheartedly. The parts where we think are too messy for the Lord but He in his love and mercy and tender compassion calls us to himself despite our shame and failures. My brothers and sisters, draw near to the Lord, for your sins to do not compare to his love. Remember there is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear!

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