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Thursday, 20 October 2022 08:51

We've all met them!

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else.

‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.”

The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’ (Luke 18:9-14)

Reflection - We’ve all met them!

We’ve all met them: people who only seem to be able to bolster their self-image by putting everyone else down. We meet such a character in the Pharisee in the Gospel for this Sunday.

Like the Pharisee in this week’s Gospel, we can sometimes see religion as a set of personal rituals, actions and prayers that cause us to think we have been faithful to God’s calling because we have done this or that.

Spirituality, however, is about practising our ‘faith’ with a profound sense of God’s presence, God’s love for us, and ours for one another. We live work and pray out of our relationship with God, deeply aware of God’s gift of abiding love and mercy that surrounds us.

The background for the Gospel is set in the First Reading from Ecclesiasticus (35:12-14, 16-19) – God’s judgement is not fooled by outward appearances of wealth, or power, or religious shows of piety. God cannot be fooled into judging against the injured, the poor, the widow or orphan.

It is the person ‘who with his whole heart serves God’ whose prayers are accepted.

The parable in this Gospel, we are told, is addressed to ‘people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else’.

The Pharisee (people well respected due to their personal piety) prays to God, reminding God (and himself) what a good person he is and all the religious things he has done. He has thus fulfilled the duties of a ‘religious’ and ‘righteous’ person – unlike, he says, the tax collector.

However, the tax collector (considered a sinner in Jesus’ time), doesn’t see himself worthy to even lift his eyes to God and acknowledges that he has sinned and considers himself unworthy to be in the presence of God. But, as Jesus says, he leaves the temple ‘at rights with God’. His relationship with God is from the heart. Overcome with a deep awareness of God’s love for him, and his own unworthiness of it, he does not dare to even lift up his eyes. Whereas the Pharisee, through his lack of humility and apparent self-righteousness, leaves assuming that he is at rights with God.

Our prayer and worship should never be empty words or merely symbolic actions. They must truly come from our hearts and so lead us not only into a deeper relationship with God but also into the willing service of all.

Download to read or print our Celebrating At Home prayers, reading and reflection for this Sunday:

pdf Celebrating At Home 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time [PDF] (3.47 MB)
default Celebrating At Home 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time [ePub] (4.49 MB)