God has a weakness for humble hearts, pope says at audience

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While the prayer of a proud person
isn’t strong enough to reach God’s heart, the prayer of a humble and contrite
heart is capable of opening wide the door to his mercy and love, Pope Francis

“God has one weakness: He has a weakness for the humble
ones. In front of a humble heart, God opens his heart fully,” the pope
said June 1 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope continued his catechetical series on prayer, focusing
on Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee, who prayed with arrogance of his own assumed
righteousness, and the tax collector, who would “not even raise his eyes
to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a

The Pharisee “prayed to himself,” and his prayer
was a display of his own merits and sense of superiority disguised as a
“prayer of thanksgiving toward God,” the pope said.

“Instead of having the Lord in front of his eyes, he
had a mirror,” he said. “His attitude and his words are far from the
way to act and speak to God, who loves all men and women and does not reject
the sinner. This one rejects the sinner; he even points to the (tax collector)
who was there.”

Jesus’ parable, he continued, is a reminder for all
Christians that it is not enough to “ask ourselves how much we pray, but
we must also ask ourselves how we pray.” Although life may run at a
frantic pace, the tax collector’s humble prayer shows “the value of
intimacy and silence” which “allows God to meet us and speak to

After inviting the 15,000 pilgrims gathered in the square to
recite the tax collector’s prayer three times, Pope Francis told them the
parable teaches the valuable lesson that a person is determined to be just or a
sinner not by their social standing, but by his or her relationship with God
and neighbor.

“If the Pharisee did not ask for anything because he
already had everything, the tax collector can only beg for God’s mercy. And
this is beautiful: to beg for God’s mercy. In presenting his ’empty hands,’
with his naked heart and recognizing himself as a sinner, the tax collector
shows us all the necessary conditions to receive God’s forgiveness,” he

As the tax collector is an image of a true believer, he
added, so is the Pharisee an “image of the corrupt one who pretends to
pray” and in exulting his own good deeds delivers an empty prayer that
distances him from God and from others.

“If God prefers humility, it is not to debase
ourselves. Humility is rather the necessary condition in order to be raised up
by him so as to experience the mercy that comes to fill our emptiness,”
the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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