Gospel Lk 18:9-14
Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. "Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, 'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.' But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.' I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Now that we are in full swing of the Lenten season, we are in the midst of fasting, giving alms and praying. It is so easy to check our list to make sure we are on track in being a good Christian. But are we performing our Christian duties with the word “I”? Let us look at the Pharisee: 'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.' He seems like a conscientious Jew trying to do the right thing. He shows his humanity by exalting himself, comparing his high moral standards to others he deems not on his level. But, notice who he is focused on, “I”.
Then, we are shown the opposite personality filled with remorse and humility, edging his way toward God and still afraid to face Him. He seems fully aware of how his sins will cost him. This sinner has humbled himself with an acute awareness of God. We may not be a crooked tax collector, but we are all sinners who should place ourselves at the foot of the cross, and remember there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. We can only humble ourselves before God and give ourselves, and the gifts he has given us, back to Him. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
As we continue this Lenten journey, let us change the word “I” to “God, be merciful to me”. For instance, God be merciful and help me not to be like the rest of humanity, God be merciful and help me to fast twice a week, and God be merciful and help me to pay tithes on my whole income. All of our sacrifices should be done with a humble spirit trusting in our loving God.
Let us pray for priests to have a love for the poor.