Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 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.”
Peace to all my brothers and sisters listening in today
Identity, Posture, Loved sinners
- Identity. This gospel is not just about how to pray, but rather a powerful lesson about identity, that is who we are before God and who God is. Jesus addresses the parable to those of us who are proud, and thus self righteous. Those of us who trust in ourselves and look at our own good works in order to justify ourselves instead of thanking God and humbly asking forgiveness for our shortcomings.
Pharisees were considered faithful members of a respected religious movement who observed the law devoutedly. Tax collectors were despised because they were considered traitors of the Jews, not only collecting money for the Romans, but cheating their own people by overcharging them.
While both are sinners, it’s not the sin that separates them but rather their attitude; One is proud and so blind to the truth about himself that he neither knows himself nor God, while the other is humble, and knows himself and thus able to see who he really is and who God is.
- Posture. It is very interesting to note that the Pharisee positions himself close to God at the front. He does not bow his head nor close his eyes but instead is looking around at others while proclaiming his good deeds or else he would’ve never seen the tax collector. The tax collector on the other hand, does not feel himself worthy to go to the front but instead sits far off in the back. He bows his head and probably closes his eyes and he is looking down and most importantly within himself and in a low voice beats his breast. The Pharisee thinks himself better than others and thus thanks God for what he is not. He justifies himself by bragging about his list of accomplishments. The tax collector on the other hand knows who he is-He is a sinner in need of God’s help.
- Loved sinners. The key to understanding this story comes in Jesus’ description of the prayer of the Pharisee when Jesus says he prayed to himself that is, he lifts himself up exultingly and arrogantly makes himself his own God. His prayer is so focused on himself and his achievements that it is not so much a prayer at all, but rather a self-congratulations. How many of us think our merits warrant us God’s approval?
The tax collector teaches us we ought to humble ourselves and admit our failures. We like the tax collector must never forget who we are, we are not God and thus lower ourselves and beg for forgiveness. Pope Francis defined holiness as an encounter between our weakness and the power of God’s grace. It’s discovering I am a much bigger sinner than I ever thought I was. This tax collector knows God and therefore knows we are not just sinners, but loved sinners and thus confidently throws himself at the mercy of God.
The point of the story is that we cannot justify ourselves but rather admit our wrongdoing and trust that God will never spurn a humbled and contrite heart.
May God bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
Always remember heaven is our goal.