The Pharisee And The Tax Collector


(Green) Cycle C/Year II (October 23, 2016)
Sir 35:12-14, 16-18/2 Tim 4:6-8, 16-18/Lk 18:9-14

The Pharisee and the tax collector went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee was known to be observant of the laws and rituals while the tax collector was considered to be a sinner being corrupt and traitor. Inside the temple, the Pharisee prayed to God, bragging about his good deeds while the tax collector prayed to God, begging His mercy for his sinfulness. Jesus Christ said that in this parable, the tax collector went home forgiven of all his sinfulness while the Pharisee went home not justified.

Barclay, a renowned biblical scholar, says that this parable teaches us things about prayer. First of all, no man who is proud can pray. God is the highest of all being that if He communicates with His creatures, He has to humble Himself. Humility then is the way of God. If we want to encounter God, we need to be humble. It is observed that one cannot touch the place of birth of Jesus Christ in the Church of Nativity without bowing or kneeling because of its low entrance. In the same way, the gate of heaven is so low that one cannot enter it without kneeling. We need to humble ourselves in prayer so as to encounter God.

Second, no man who despises his fellow-men can pray. All of us human beings were created in the image and likeness of God and Jesus Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for all of us. We all have the same dignity as children of God and we are all equally loved by God. We cannot despise anybody especially in front of God. Jesus commands us to love our neighbor and says that whatever we do to the least we do it to Him. When we despise others, we despise the image of God and Jesus Christ Himself. Our treatment with others must be based on love. Man, because of his great dignity, deserves not to be despised but rather to be loved. Sinner or not, we must respect him or her and show our love, mercy and compassion to him or her the way God loves us and is merciful to us.

Third, true prayer comes from setting our lives beside the life of God. Since we are all created in the image and likeness of God, our perfection, self-fulfillment and complete happiness can be found only in God. This is because God created us for Him so much so that St. Augustine said: My heart is not at rest until it rests in you, my God. Consequently, we must always be near to God and be like God. The commandment of Jesus is: Be perfect for your Heavenly Father is perfect. To fulfill this divine mandate, we must always compare ourselves to God so as to strive hard in order to be like God. If we compare ourselves with others, we simply limit our capacity to become better and we may easily fall to pride. The Pharisee was proud of his goodness since he compared himself to the tax collector who was a sinner. He should have compared himself to God who is the holiest and he would discover how sinner he was also.

As Christians, we can never be satisfied with the good things that we do. Jesus Christ reminds us that we are useless servants because we only fulfill what we are expected to do. Jesus demands that we may endeavor everyday to be better. To do this, we must always compare ourselves to God and accept the fact that we need His mercy for we are simply a sinner.