Sirach 35: 12-14, 16-18
2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18
Luke 18: 9-14
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we read the parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector, who both go up to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray. Jesus tells us about how the Pharisee “took up his position.” Jesus hints that this Pharisee had a designated spot, probably in a prominent place in the Temple Sanctuary. Jesus has the Pharisee, in his prayers, tell God of the “good” he has done during his life; how thankful he is, that God did not make him like the rest of humanity, especially that (ugh!) tax collector in the back of the Temple courtyard. Jesus, in his tale, turns our attention to that tax collector; who many in Israel of this at time, considered a thief and a traitor. This tax collector is on his knees, bent over, not daring to raise his eyes. His only prayer is: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus then must have shocked his audience when he declared that the tax collector left the Temple area justified, but not the Pharisee! It all has to do with humility.
Humility is somewhat of a dirty word in our society. Our social media, our TV programming, our magazines, are full of stories of people who really make a big deal of themselves. In no way could it be said that they are being humble. Those seeking a job, are always told to present yourself in the best possible light; really sell yourself and your skills to a possible employer. There is no room for being humble in that scenario. Or is there? What I mean is that to be humble, is not that we let other people walk over us; but that we acknowledge our true self, the self that was created by God. We acknowledge all the gifts and talents we possess, were given to us by the God who loves us. We acknowledge that everyone else around us, has been similarly blessed with unique skills and talents. And to be humble, is to also acknowledge that at times, we may have misused those skills and talents. And we acknowledge that we need the healing power of the Father’s forgiveness.
Jesus is calling on us to remember who we truly are; what our relationship with God truly is. In a certain way, Jesus is echoing the words of the prophet Micah: “You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you; Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with you God.” (Micah 6:8)