Saturday of Week 3 of Lent – Gospel

Commentary on Luke 18:9-14

In today’s Gospel we see two ways of praying. One is arrogant, proud and contemptuous of others. As the Pharisee ‘prays’, God is somehow meant to feel grateful that there are at least a few people as observant of the rules as he is, in comparison with the sinful and despicable outsider, symbolised by the tax collector behind him:

God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

On the contrary, the Pharisee fasts twice a week and pays tithes on all he earns – he goes well beyond what the law demands.

Yet his ‘prayer’ is not accepted. It is not really a prayer at all, but a hymn to himself. As Catholics, or as regular churchgoers, we can sometimes feel superior to those who have dropped out, to those who have no religion, those who lead what we regard as ‘immoral’ lives.

The tax collector is certainly a sinner, that is not denied. But he knows and acknowledges his sinfulness. He is deeply repentant, and he puts himself totally at the mercy of God:

God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

His prayer is accepted because he acknowledges God as his Lord and Saviour. As well, he does not he compare himself with anyone else…he does not judge anyone else – only himself.

Our prayer must always be an expression of our total dependence on God. There is nothing that we can give him which he has not given us first. All we can do is to make an effort to return a fraction of the love that he showers constantly on us. We are and always will be in his debt.

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