Posted by: livingscripture | March 14, 2015

Third Saturday of Lent

From the Word of the Day 

“Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.  The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘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’.  But 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’.  I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted’.”   

 (Luke 18: 10-14)   


How should we live this WordPharisee publican

During this Lenten time, the Church as Mother and Teacher offers us a meditation on the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican when perhaps, having lived Lent with a certain effort, we can run the risk of pride, of feeling that we are better than others.  In this memorable parable, Jesus presents two men who have very opposing ways of praying.

The Pharisee is a ‘monument of virtue’, fully satisfied with himself.  He is entirely concentrated on himself, ‘I am not like other men…I do all the required things…’  It is only at the beginning of his prayer that he names God; then God quickly disappears to leave space exclusively to his ego that occupies the entirety of his pseudo-prayer. The original text could also be translated with, ‘he prayed thus, turned to himself’.  He is a person boasting of his value who deems himself the judge of the entire world.

The Publican on the contrary, stood off at a distance and did not dare to lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, uttering a brief prayer, “O God, have pity on me a sinner”.

The contrast between the two could not be greater.  The Pharisee is full of himself and the ostentation of his virtue.  The Publican instead, beat his breast.  He had nothing to boast of but simply implored God’s mercy.  The Parable tells of God’s justice.  The Pharisee, who was grateful for his righteousness, went home unjustified.  The Publican, meanwhile, who recognized his sinfulness, went home justified.

In my pause for silent contemplation, I will repeat the Publican’s Prayer:

Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!

The Voice of St. Theresa of Lisieux

As soon as I look at the Holy Gospel, I immediately breathe the perfume of the life of Jesus.  I do not seek the first place, but the last place.  Instead of stopping in front with the Pharisee, I repeat with complete confidence the prayer of the Publican.


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