MARCH 13. LENT. WK. 3. SAT. LK. 18. 9-14
Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’
A danger for Christians dealt with by this Gospel reading is that of wanting to determine where we stand in God’s eyes; - something that is simply beyond our ability; - as is made clear by the Pharisees attitude; - where he seems to have already allocated himself a very comfortable place in heaven.
A fundamental truth we must never forget is we are all sinners, and the Pharisee has overlooked this fact; - while the tax collector was very conscious of the sins he has committed; - together with his need for Mercy!
The other truth illustrated in the Gospel is our natural inclination to judge, and condemn others; - while being very merciful towards our own failings; - “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get!”
The central point of the reading is how we look at our own lives and actions. The Pharisee’s focus was on his good points; which are itemised in the Gospel (I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get), while the tax collectors focus was on his failings (he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”).
The outcome of these two different approaches to life is that the Pharisee saw himself as having no need of God’s Mercy, even though, at the same time, he was judging; - and condemning; - the tax collector; - totally overlooking the commandment of Love!
The tax collector, on the other hand, took a totally different view in that was on his knees, aware of his sins, and showing no interest in judging others; - because he was only too well aware of how he himself had offended God..
Christ has made it very clear to us, if we desire Divine Mercy, there is a prerequisite; - and that is we first have to show mercy to others; - a very just and fair teaching that we often overlook; - especially when we notice others ‘not doing what is right!”!
The problem was ‘spelt out’ at the very start of the parable, when we are informed who the parable was aimed at; - Christ was talking of people who; - “prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else”; - with the Pharisee being a perfect example!
It is interesting to note what we are being told in this teaching, namely; - “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted”; - with the sinful tax collector being the one we should imitate!