Sometimes we think of the Pharisees as the ‘baddies’ in the Gospel because of the many examples that Our Lord used in His teachings. That would be the wrong picture. The Pharisees goal was often to lead a holy life (not unlike us), and strictly according to the Law of Moses. Where they usually went wrong was to focus on the externals, interpreting Scriptures to suit themselves and to have a warp sense of self righteousness that saw themselves being ‘better’ than others. Our Lord warns frequently and fiercely against the attitude of the Pharisees. Only when we see our own sinfulness and our own weakness, and that we are ‘beggars before God’, that we can appreciate God’s mercy. Its when we know we are sick that we know we need a doctor; it is when we know we need to be saved that we are open to a Saviour. And God came to us as a Saviour.
This Sunday’s (Luke 18:9-14) Gospel invites us to examine again how we pray, and how we see each other before God. The tax collector’s prayer is the one for use to follow: “God me merciful on me a sinner”. As Christ said: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted”. If we are humble before God, leaving aside all our pride, or self righteousness, we will really be able to open ourselves better to God’s grace as we come to celebrate the Eucharist.
Blessings, Fr Michael