Awhile back, the angels asked me to dedicate Sundays to the Gospel Readings. With love and gratitude, here is the Gospel of Luke 18:9-14. With a loving message behind it.
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 whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus is speaking to and about those who laud themselves while despising everyone else. It is not the sense of accomplishment that reeks, but the sense of superiority. The pharisee is not grateful for what God has given him, but for the ways he “outshines” his neighbors; and especially the despised tax collector. He doesn’t realize his condition results from God’s grace and mercy; instead he believes his own accomplishment and all of his effort is done in vain.
The tax collector does not even raise his head; for it is weighed down by the burden of his sin. Looking to where God resides in his heart and beating on its door, he simply begs for Mercy; offering his sincere contrition.
The pharisee mistakes God’s role as that of a passive listener who hears performance reports and assigns gold stars. The tax collector recognizes God’s true role- to welcome and love every honest and contrite heart, to generously dispense mercy, and to justify us in a way we could never do on our own. [see reference]
Reference: The Workbook for Lectors Gospel Readers and Proclaimers of the Word