The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

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We’re back in Hosea for our first reading today. We see a verse from Hosea that is quoted a few times in the New Testament. “For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” It would do us well to learn the meaning of those words. In the Gospel reading from Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable about two people praying in the temple.

A Pharisee thanks God that he is not like all the low-lifes out there, including a tax collector who is with him in the temple. “I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on whole income.” Impressive, no? Well…no. The tax collector won’t even raise his eyes and prays, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” No airs, no pretensions; just a plea from the heart acknowledging how puny he was. Jesus ends with, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee’s great sin, of course, was pride. He thought himself better than everyone else because of his righteous deeds. How often do we fall into that trap? I can tell you it happens to me. I see a well-dressed couple give up a single dollar bill in the collection basket at Mass and think to myself, “Glad I’m not stingy like them! Don’t forget to look at the numbers on my check, Lord!” Of course, the Lord doesn’t see the numbers on my check. He sees the black spot on my heart. And calls me to repentance.

Father, help me to repent of my great pride. If I refuse to humble myself, I ask you to humble me today, O God. Amen.

Today’s Readings


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