The Pharisee sounds like he is pretty good guy. He goes to ‘church’ on Sunday, he tithes a full ten percent, he is not dishonest, he is not greedy, he even fasts (and in their culture that was twice a week).
So, why do we cringe a little inside as he is telling God all that he does? Is it that he is telling God all that he does? I mean, he didn’t even ask God for anything. He really was not praying for anything. This is the parable that reminds me of song entitled, “Oh Lord, It’s Hard to Humble”. Remember that song? When you’re perfect in every way you must tell someone, anyone who would listen.
I think this Pharisee ran out of people to tell that he was perfect in every way because no one wanted to listen anymore. Who, then, is left for him to share his perfectness? The only one who would still listen, God. Of course, this is a little weird. God is perfect in every way so how could the Pharisee compete with God? Well, he didn’t. When the Pharisee left the temple, he left without being justified. In other words, he did not ask for forgiveness therefore he did not receive forgiveness.
The tax collector was a despised position in their culture. You were to collect the taxes for the Romans. But you did not get paid for this. No, you were to add a percentage to the tax and that would be your pay. Of course, no one was watching how much you added, and the dishonest tax collectors would overcharge severely.
This tax collector is unique in the sense that he did not compare himself to others. He acknowledged who he was. That he is a sinner needing forgiveness. Did you notice, he, too, did not ask for any material thing. Just for mercy.
In the psalm we are told God desires mercy. When we turn to Him, we are granted that mercy. Let’s see, when you come to mass this weekend, what will you be praying for?
May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen