Jesus uses todays Gospel story to challenge those who may think they were better than others and who despise anyone else who may fall short of their high moral standards.
We hear of the two men who were at prayer in the temple. One of them is a tax collector and the other a Pharisee. While they are there, the Pharisee who is a good living man, is very quick to speak out to distance himself from the ‘sinful’ tax collector and his way of life. He thanks God and speaks about all the good things that he does, fasting, paying taxes, and points out the faults and failings of the other man. He has a false sense of security about himself.
In complete contrast, the tax collector is aware of his own faults and failings. He does not need reminding. We are told he stands some way off and does not even look to heaven. He asks for God’s forgiveness with the powerful words ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’. Thus, Jesus tells us that the man ‘went home at rights with God’ while the Pharisee did not.
It’s so easy for all of us to become spiritually smug and think we are better than the next person and more deserving of God’s mercy. We are all sinners in varying degrees. So, the next time we feel the urge to point the finger at someone else maybe we should think again and point it inwardly towards ourselves and use those amazing words in today’s Gospel ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’.
Whenever we see our need for God we shall have mercy shown to us.