The Good News for the day, March 10, 2018
Saturday of the Third Week of Lent (242)
(Jesus addressed this story to people convinced of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else. “Two persons went up to the temple area to pray. One of them was a religious leader—a Pharisee—and the other a disreputable tax collector. The Pharisee took up his prominent position. He said this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I am so grateful to you that I am not like the rest of humankind — takers, immoral, and adulterous — or like this man over here who collects taxes. I practice fasting two days a week, and I pay a tenth of my whole income as a tithe. The tax collector, on the other hand, stood off by himself at a distance—would not even raise his eyes to heaven—but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me, someone who has gone astray.’ The truth as I see it—the second man went home justified, not the first one. Anybody, in fact, who makes himself the center of his world will get humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be raised up.”Luke 18)
A familiar tale, this little story reminds us of the danger we all have of praying to ourselves as the center of the universe. (There is a play on words here hard to convey—the Pharisee prays to-and-towards himself)
One of the great advantages and discoveries of following Jesus is “outwardness.” It dawns on us that—unlike a brat that we were at some early stage of our life—we become aware of other people as “other.” They are free souls, have a history, hide their struggles, feel sincere, and mess up—like you—and unlike you.
They are “like you.” The Pharisees congratulates himself as he prays to himself that he is not like other people—a denial, and, in the end, a lie to himself.
And of course, we tend—like a helium balloon rising—to have that same sense—to have that same attitude—that we are above others, that we are not losers, failures, and worthless. But the Pharisee is also NOT like you.
The “disreputable” tax collectors earned their reputation for greed abusiveness and control. Scripture has whitewashed them because Jesus liked to “hang” with them, but you and I need to keep seeing them as we might look at a drug dealer, a crooked politician or a crime boss today. He liked “crooked,” “lost,” or “bent” people
The Good News is that no matter how astray you and I go—Our Father waits to hug us as we admit our limits, our sins, and our shortcomings of any kind. It is that honest praying—our sense of having lost our way—that wins intimacy with our God. We love God like a spouse–“out there”–and know the readiness is there to forgive anything.