The Pharisee and the Publican, Gustav Dore
New American Bible (Philippines, USA)
Gospel (Luke 18:9-14, NAB)
Jesus 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 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
I have often thought that this parable could be read another way: instead of having the pharisee saying 'O God, I thank you that I am not . . . not like this tax collector' we could apply it to ourselves as saying 'O God, I thank you that I am not . . . like this pharisee'. One of the flimsiest excuses that I have heard so often from persons who don't go to Mass anymore is that the church is full of hypocrites and pharisees. We have no idea what goes on in the heart of another, of the inner struggles of another. The Church is for sinners, as the tax collector in the parable realized.
His words perhaps inspired the very ancient prayer known as 'The Jesus Prayer': 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner'. This has come down to us especially through the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church and through the Orthodox Churches. This prayer can be used to draw us into silent prayer, into meditation, saying each phrase as we breathe in and repeating it over and over. I also use it as an Act of Contrition