The gospel reading for today provides us with a contrast that we need to recognize and understand. Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, both of whom address God in prayer.
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.’
According to Jesus, it was the tax collector who went home justified, not the pious Pharisee. Why? Because the tax collector recognized that he was a sinner, but the Pharisee did not. God is merciful to those who are humble and honest about their failings.
We are all sinners, needing God’s mercy. Let us strive always to recognize our sinfulness and humbly ask God for his grace and forgiveness.