The Gospel of Luke 18:10-14 is full of spiritual truth. One can even say that the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is at the very centre of the teaching of Jesus Christ which speaks a lot about our own human nature.
It is important not to ignore the very basic teaching of the bible. The house of God, the temple, is primarily a place of prayer. It is a house of prayer. All people, regardless of who they are, come to church to pray. That is why we build churches. To give us a place to pray. While you can pray anywhere, God wants us to pray in Church, because that is where the believing community gathers to pray. The community is central to our prayer.
There is another simple lesson here as well. The Pharisee thinks of others as sinners. The tax collector looks at himself as a sinner. This is key to understanding our spirituality.
Unfortunately, whether we are in church or not, we, like the Pharisee, sometimes think of our own goodness as so impressive that it just cannot fail to make us very accepting to God. People do think that way. They think that they are the best. Everyone should be just like them.
The Pharisee kept all the ceremonies and traditions. His prayer has no element of fault, sin, or confession. He does not need to confess because he has done nothing wrong. He goes to the temple to be seen, to make it look good.
The prayer of the tax collector is seen in the verse from the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” ( Mt 5:3) Being poor means admitting that we have nothing to offer God to help us make up for our sins. We come to God, so called, “empty.” All we can say is, “God have mercy”.
Our own life would be so much better if we started with repenting our own sins, before we work on the sins of others. None of us are perfect.
People are made in God’s image, not in our own image. God has all the graces that we need, -love, hope, faith mercy, kindness, forgiving.
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Keeping our attention on God would make a big difference in our lives, marriage, family, and friends.
Jesus suffered from the same type of thinking that we see in today’s parable. People were looking for a Messiah, but they wanted a political one, not the spiritual one that Jesus was. They were so angry with Jesus that they crucified Him.
When we try to manipulate others, we are actually making a God out of ourselves. We also have to remember that if we actually think that we are not as good as the other who seem to be perfect, we do ourselves harm, because we then take our attention of God and turn it on ourselves.
As St Paul says in his letter to the Romans (3:2-3), “All people are sinners, and none of us can compare to the glory of God”.
We call on His mercy. We do not compare ourselves to Him.