From the Word of the Day
“The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to God, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income’. The tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner’.” (Luke 18: 11-13)
Before narrating the parable, the evangelist tells us that Jesus was speaking to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. In effect, in the Pharisee we see the picture of the ‘good’ man of those times. He was one who knew all about the Scriptures and was strictly observant of the law. He even fasted more than what was prescribed and did not hesitate to give alms.
The Publican is the reverse side of the coin. He is one who collaborates with the Roman government and enriches himself with his odious business of collecting the taxes for the oppressor. What could be worse for the society of that time?
Jesus looks at them in the moment of prayer. In fact, it is in our way of praying that the truth of ourselves emerges. The Pharisee is the self-centered person par excellence, infatuated with himself and closed off to others. This is why he cannot enter into a relationship with God. He is there to list the reasons for his worthiness, looking only at himself. Thus, he does not perceive the marvels of God-Love who is infinitely great and loving, nor does he perceive his own sins, his incapacity to love God, his incapacity to love others, to open himself to others.
The Publican instead is true in his depths and enters into God’s embrace. There is only one reason that his is really prayer. He admits all the ugliness and misery of his sin, while at the same time he does not doubt God’s mercy.
Today in my time of silent contemplation, I will place myself in God’s presence and allow His light to penetrate me and to see my sin, especially my egoism and pride. Then I will fix my gaze on Jesus, Crucified and Risen. I will open myself to the torrents of His merciful love and forgiveness.
Lord, open my eyes to the reality of myself and the compassion of Your love.
The Voice of the Stories of a Russian Pilgrim
The deep conviction that we can do nothing by ourselves, that we are radically impotent outside of the Holy Spirit’s action, will incessantly place us in an attitude of truth. Then we will repeat without tiring, ‘Lord, have pity on me, who am a sinner’.