[Jesus] told his next story to some who were complacently pleased
with themselves over their moral performance and looked down
their noses at the common people: "Two men went up to the
Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee
posed and prayed like this: 'Oh, God, I think you that I am not
like other people -- robbers, crooks, adulterers, or heaven forbid,
like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.'
"Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face
in his hands, not daring to look up, said, 'God, give mercy.
Forgive me, a sinner.'"
Jesus commented, "This tax man, not the other, went home
made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the
air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're
content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.
<The Message >
Lawrence Kushner, in the Book of Words , writes:
"Being at One with the Holy One of Being is
not about becoming the same as God but about forgetting the boundaries
of self. You forget, at least for a moment, the mind game of
where you end and creation begins. You understand that you are
an expression of creation: It is in you and you are everywhere
"There are many ways we reach for the Holy One(ness). We
can attain self-transcendence through our mind in study, through
our heart in prayer, or with our hands in sacred deed. We say,
in effect, that through becoming God's agent, through voluntarily
setting God's will above our own, we literally lose our selves
and become One with the One whom we serve. It rarely lasts for
more than a moment.
"The primary obstacle to becoming one is self-awareness,
self-consciousness, talking to oneself. And for this reason,
high awareness involves stopping, ignoring, forgetting the conversation
we routinely carry on inside our heads between differing parts
of our personalities. Such amnesia is another word for self-unification.
When the one who asks and the one who hears are the same, we
are who we are. We realize, to our embarrassment, that we have
been ourselves all along and only linguistic convention tricked
us into thinking that we were someone else. In thinking, praying,
and doing what God wants, we become one with God and the Universe.
The outer person is an illusion, a figment of language. Only
an un-self-awareness remains."
Snapshots in time always beg for more of the story. And on the
way home from prayer the Pharisee found his market share greatly
diminished, his family destroyed by terrorists, etc. In other
words he fell flat on his high nose. How long would it be before
he prayed as did the tax man?
On his way home the tax man found an idea for a new tax that
would increase his income at the expense of the Pharisee class.
In other words he was able to profile and dismiss the Pharisee.
How long would it be before he prayed as did the Pharisee?
And where would you be on this pendulum of life experience?
Who of us doesn't get trapped in our complacence with our own
behavior? Jesus and Lawrence see it similarly. Jesus: "If
you are content to be simply yourself, you will become more than
yourself." Lawrence: "The primary obstacle to becoming
one is self-awareness, self-consciousness, talking to oneself."
Now, how would you put that into your own words? And what spiritual
disciplines will you put into place to help you live what you
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