“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…”
This is what the Pharisee prays in the parable Jesus tells in today’s Gospel. This is an example of someone who “is full” as in the beatitude “woe to those who are full, they have had their fill.” In other words, this Pharisee in his own opinion of himself, is doing perfectly and really doesn’t need anyone’s help, even Jesus’ help. On the other hand the tax collector is fully aware of his weaknesses and faults and also knows well his need for Jesus’ help, healing and forgiveness.
This seems pretty obvious to us and we always believe Jesus is simply talking about the historical Pharisees of his time. It is important to remember that Jesus’ parables are meant for us and at anytime we can fall into the same category as the Pharisees if we presume too much about our self-importance, worth and holiness.
It is almost comical sometimes to observe known religious leaders act in the same way that Jesus rejects in his parable. Of course it is never as blatant as the example in Jesus’ parable, but just listen to the way church leaders and the like talk about other Christians and how they do not believe that they are true Christians. It seems to happen every day.
If we are to be the way Jesus asks us to be, we are to take on the posture and spirituality of the tax collector in Jesus’ parable. Being humble, contrite and in need, are not qualities that most people want to process. For many, confidence, arrogance and pride are what makes them successful and even pious. It seems that these are the ones who are in need of really reading Jesus’ words in the Gospel and especially the words of Jesus’ parable today.