The prayer asks God to, “Increase in us the gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity”; and the lesson in Luke’s Gospel tells of two men who desperately need all three of those gifts. One is a tax collector, the other is an exceedingly intense adherent of the temple in Jerusalem, a Pharisee. You have heard of them, I am sure.
Both went up to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even this tax collector.” He goes on to extoll before God all of his virtues.
The Tax Collector, standing far off, not even looking up to heaven prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”
To ask, ‘Which one am I’, is to miss the point, which is, that we are at times both, but rarely at the same time. All of us could be found lacking of humility, and full of boastful satisfaction, because we are all human, and boast when we need humility, or are humble when we could take credit for what we do.
This is why we need to ask God for the Gifts he can bestow. “Increase in me the gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity.” It is repeating what the Psalmist offers, happy are the people whose strength is in God.
Paul, in his second letter to Timothy seems like the Pharisee. He seems exceedingly boastful. But in light of where he is in his ministry, he does have a right to tell of all he has done. He has brought the message of Jesus Christ to Europe, and Greece, Macedonia, and Rome; he has done the work he was given to do by Christ on the road to Damascus.
Jeremiah, many generations before Paul, and the coming of Jesus with his Gospel of Love and forgiveness, told of the apostasies of the Hebrew people, how they had not lived up to the expectations of the covenant with God. He begged the Lord God not to be a stranger to his people, not to forsake them.
He calls in great humility for God not to punish Judah, or loathe Zion. He boldly pleads the case of the people who have suffered from the withdrawal of blessings and healings of God; and begs, ‘Do not spurn us, for your names sake. Do not break your covenant with us.’
Humbly Jeremiah pleads before God, “Can any of the idols of the nation’s bring rain? ... Is it not you, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for it is you who do all this.” Amen
The Rev. George O. Martin is an Ordained Deacon at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 17th and Adams, Great Bend. Send email to email@example.com.