Thursday, April 4, 2013

Luke 18:9-14: Christ's Mercy and the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
-- Luke 18:9-14 (RSV)

          Reading Luke 18:9-14 is a humbling and emotionally-wrought experience.  The parable relates to all sinners and reflects Christ’s personal invitation to conversion.  We can absorb this lesson and witness the power of pride and ego at work.  When the Pharisee says a prayer of thanksgiving for not being "like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector,” he represents humanity's ego and self-righteousness.  How many times do we unknowingly look at others with disdain and condemnation?  Although I regularly pray that I see Christ in all people, there are moments when, through my own fault, I forget or stubbornly give in to my own concupiscence.  Frustration, pride, and temptation pervade during these moments, but we must call on God for His merciful grace.  That is exactly what this sinful tax collector does; he calls on God for mercy by saying, “‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’”  Let us never forget that we are all hopeless sinners in need of God’s infinite mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us always humble ourselves before Christ and ask for forgiveness, and through charity, He generously gives us the necessary grace to amend our sinful ways.  Christ calls us from our figurative tax booths, just like Levi and Zaccheus.  I pray that we follow Him, too.