The Publican and the Pharisee

– Saturday of the Third Week of Lent –

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else, ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here.” [Luke 18:9 – 14]

Again the theme of pride and humility comes to the fore in today’s reading; Jesus juxtaposes the prayer of a Pharisee with the prayer of the tax collector.

The challenge for us is to honestly examine our hearts and ask ourselves what motivates our actions. Do we care for the poor because it makes us feel good, or because we actually care for the poor? Do we go to Mass because we love Jesus and his Church, or because it makes us feel more righteous than those who don’t? Do we live holy lives out of a desire to love God, or is it so that others will think highly of us?

The Pharisee’s proud prayer is juxtaposed with the tax collector’s humility. He simply prays, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Whilst it may well be true that the Pharisee lived a more virtuous life than the tax collector, it’s the disposition that changes everything. The sinner who comes to God with a contrite heart and a prayer for mercy is in a much better place than the ‘moral’ person who comes to God with a proud heart.

It can be difficult at times for us to understand our motivations. Why do we do the things we do? This is especially true in regard to religious engagement. Nonetheless, the power of the Catholic life is that we do not do this alone; we can invite God to help us see ourselves as we really are and to reveal to us our motivations. May the Holy Spirit transform our hearts and bring forth humility.


by Dcn Peter Pellicaan

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