The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector seems pretty clear. When the Pharisee prayed, he was thanking God for all of his virtues, impressive, and probably true, yet, it leaves one feeling it was all about him. Was he praying to God by praising himself, His life-style and comparing it to that of the tax collector and everyone? I am not like the rest of humanity? Judging everyone? It seems so, but not like this tax collector.
Somehow, the Pharisee’s prayer does not sound really sincere, when he criticizes the other man, calling him greedy, dishonest; adulterous which might have been true. If it were true, why would the tax collector come into the temple? He did so trusting in God’s mercy. He stood at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to Heaven. He acknowledges God as a God of mercy, and himself as a sinner. He appears to be humble, recognize who he is; yet, he appears to have a close relationship with God.
Also, was he really dishonest? (People seemed to think all tax collectors were) or was he just doing his job? A job he needed to feed and shelter, his family? He asks God for mercy, does that sound familiar? Like the sacrament of reconciliation? (confession/absolution)? The tax collector went home “justified.” The dictionary describes, “Justify” as “freedom from guilt or blame, to absolve.” Does that sound like what we feel, after we receive absolution during the sacrament of reconciliation?
Scripture says the former did not go home justified. How sad. Focused on himself, he was disconnected from God, unable to grow in this relationship. One can spend one’s whole life judging others, and fail to look into their own heart.
In Hosea we hear: -” It is love that I desire, not sacrifice.”
As I continue my Lenten journey, where do I fit? What is my plan for these next days?
Have I opened my heart to God’s mercy and forgiveness? Or, am I more like the Pharisee, praising myself for my greatness?
“Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion, wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt, and of my sin cleanse me, a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. O God, be merciful! To me a sinner. Amen.