Two people went up to the temple area to pray, one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The people of Jesus’s time would regard the Pharisees as being honest, righteous and those who were very careful to observe the Jewish Law. How would you describe the Pharisee is today’s gospel?… perhaps as arrogant, self-righteous, one who justified himself and not open to the action of God in his life. The healthy do not need a doctor; sick people do. I have come not to invite the self-righteous to a change of heart, but sinners. (Lk5:32)
On the other end of the spectrum is the tax collector. Tax collectors were notoriously regarded as being dishonest, taking more money than that was due to the Romans. But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but heat his breast and prayed, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” We see that the tax collector, very much aware of his sinfulness, implored God’s mercy. As we heard in today’s first reading from the Book of Sirach: The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does rest till it reaches its goal. Think about the qualities of the prayer of the tax collector… sincere, direct and humble. Do our prayers have these qualities?
There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine respectable people who do not need to repent. (Lk15:7) Jesus tells us in today’s gospel: for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted. We humble ourselves when we confess our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We are all in need of God’s grace and mercy!
God bless us all always!