Saturday 3rd Week Lent


Luke 18:9-14: everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

When we want to avoid details and make arguments that will sweep all opposition away we say things like ‘there are two kinds of people..’, or ‘we can do one of two things..’. The mind likes dualities because there’s always a winner and a loser. But as God and the meditator know dualities are only two-thirds of the story. The deeper, sub-atomic, mind thinks in threes and so winning or losing isn’t the main point.

As a teacher, using stories that were both simple and subtle, Jesus used the dualistic to get to the trinitarian. In this story two men go to the temple to pray. One is an absurd, Dickensian clerical bigot and an egoist of the first order who really believes he’s better than everyone else and thanks God for it. The other is also a stereotype, a corrupt tax-collector who probably ran bars and strip clubs and other shady enterprises. What’s surprising is that he was in the temple at all and was praying. Not surprisingly, the Pharisee was too self-absorbed to know that he wasn’t really praying at all. He didn’t know that he was distracted - by the worst of all distractions. The publican was probably trying to focus but couldn’t stop thinking of his business problems. But he knew it and threw that awareness into the pot of prayer as well. True worship swallows everything.

Like Martha and Mary, or the prodigal son and his older brother these two seem polar opposites. But read it a second and third time and they begin to fuse. The listening mind begins to recognize itself in each of them. Don’t we all have moments when we feel superior, if not to everyone else at least to the lowest? And don’t we all have, in the murkiest corners of our ego, an awareness that we are very screwed up and can do nothing about it except open ourselves, in that very place, to the God we only discover in humility? Except we do even that imperfectly.

So what is the mind that is aware of this duality within us? The third which makes one. Except it is a non-numerical oneness, a unity and a union in which duality is both healed and transcended. And so, there’s the paradox by which Jesus wraps up the parable – exalt and be humbled, humble and be exalted. You obviously can’t stay long in either place then. So where are we? We arrive at that non-geographical place when we see that God is smiling.

With love
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