Our Gospel story about the Pharisee and tax collector who go to the temple to pray is a warning for people who practice their religion, who go to church, and who would call themselves “religious,” to be careful not to act like the Pharisee. He didn’t go to pray to God, but to tell God all the good things he had done. He WAS a good man; he was doing all the right things, following all the rules. His problem was he didn’t recognize his glaring weakness: he exalted himself and looked down on others. He was proud and lacked compassion. As we heard at the beginning of the Gospel, Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. Because of his self-righteousness, the Pharisee asked for nothing and he got nothing.
The tax collector, on the other hand, simply asked for mercy and he got it. He recognized his weaknesses and so was able to ask for what he needed.
One way to help us avoid falling into the Pharisee trap is to be aware that it is with God’s help that we are able to lead a good life and to be thankful for those graces. With that awareness of God’s part in our “righteousness,” we will be less likely to be so judging of others and their weaknesses. It is saying to ourselves, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” In addition, no matter how “good” we are, we still are not perfect.
I invite us this week to spend time reflecting on the attitudes of the Pharisee and the tax collector. How much Pharisee do I have in me? How much tax collector? How can I grow in being humble and not judging or dismissing others?
As we struggle to grow as merciful disciples, let us support each other in prayer. God bless.
Church sign of the week: When a person is ready to uncover their sins, God is ready to cover them.