Father James Swanson, LC
Jesus then addressed this parable to
those who were convinced of their own righteousness and
despised everyone else. "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."
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you with a faith
that never seeks to test you. I trust in
you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will,
even when it does not make sense to the
way that I see things. I love you Lord. May
my love for you and those around me be
similar to the love you have shown to me.
Petition: Lord, help me to have the humility
of the tax collector.
1. The Pharisee Is Mistake-Prone: This
Pharisee makes a lot of mistakes in the few moments
he spends before God. First of all, he is
laboring under the misapprehension that he can earn heaven.
Another mistake is that he thinks that he can take
credit for the good he does. Even though he
begins by seeming to give God the credit, by
the end of his prayer, he is acting as if
he thinks he is the one who really deserves
the praise. Does my prayer ever get derailed like this?
Hail, Full of Grace: Did Mary Have a Twin
Brother? Another mistake: he underestimates the evil that exists
in his own life. He seems to be unaware of
any sin he has committed – at least, he
does not mention any sin to God in his little
monologue. We know that Jesus says that even a
just man sins seven times a day, so he must
have something to put before the Lord and ask
forgiveness. Maybe he has a conscience like a sieve
– most of his sins get through it without the
conscience picking them up. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t
seem to be aware of anything. He only has
a semi-conscience. Just because he doesn’t mention it doesn’t
mean that God doesn’t know what it is. If he
asked for forgiveness, God would give it, but since
he acts as if he were sinless, his sin remains.
Sorry Lord, I Blew It Yet Again: The attitude
of the tax collector is completely different. Instead of
focusing on his own goodness, he focuses on his own
sinfulness. He asks God to forgive it, to overlook
it; and this is the correct attitude to have before
God. If God forgives our sins, then we have
nothing to worry about. We may or may not
have a history of good works we can point to
in order to claim justification before God, but if
we do not ask God for forgiveness for our
failings, our good works are useless. Which is my attitude?
Do I have a conscience like a sieve, that
doesn’t pick up my failings? Do I focus more on
my good works or more on my failings? It
is not necessarily a mark of pessimism to focus
on where you have failed God (although you should not
do that exclusively), but it is certainly foolish to
Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus, help me
to be aware of and truly sorry for my sins.
If there is anything I am not aware of,
help me to see what it is. If there is
anything I underestimate, show its true evil to me.
Help me to be mindful that good works are
worthless without the right attitude of humbly seeking forgiveness.
Resolution: I will do an examination of conscience based
on my own self-righteousness. Do I tend to excuse
myself too easily of my failings? Do I think myself
better than others? Do I refuse responsibility for the
problems in my life, always blaming them on the
other person who is not as intelligent as I am,
as good as I am, as perceptive as I