Dear Mothers, Look Up


October 23  

From today’s Gospel: Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else (Lk 18:9).

Today’s highly provocative Gospel was addressed to those who considered themselves to be in such an exalted place in society and their relationship to God that they actually despised everyone else.

But mostly when I go to the Lord and start looking over all my sins, I get myself into trouble by despising myself. I don’t want to raise my eyes to the Lord, do not want to look into his face, can’t bear to hear anything he has to say. I am looking at myself, not at the Lord. And that’s a problem. I end up in a worse state than when I started.

At one point I spoke with a mentor about this tendency—that I felt so unworthy, that it made me so depressed, that I did not see how I could have a relationship with the Lord. “Of course, you can’t,” she told me. “You have to stop praying like the tax collector. You can’t get better by putting your focus on yourself. You have to turn your face toward Jesus and keep your eyes, your mind, and your heart on him. His Holy Spirit can transform you. You can’t transform yourself.”

 What freedom that gave me!

As I matured in this vocation, I gradually realized that prayer is a conversation with a friend—that it is about a relationship—a relationship with the Father, his Son, Jesus, through and with the help of the Holy Spirit. When I sit down to pray, I am in the presence of someone who loves me unconditionally. That should not make me feel bad about myself, that should make me feel loved—a daughter of the king. I am a mother, but first I am a daughter. Am I unworthy? Yes, absolutely. Does that matter? Apparently not. Jesus took my sins upon himself, and from his heart of perfect love, he is transforming me and making me whole. All I have to do is repent of my sins and say “yes” to his transforming love. That’s all any of us has to do. So maybe I started this journey like the tax collector who couldn’t raise his eyes to heaven, but that’s not how I have spent all my days. I hope that the tax collectors in Jesus’ time learned that they, too, didn’t have to stay in abjectness—that Jesus also came to set them free.

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