Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. (Ps 51:3-4,18-19)
In this corner, we have a tax collector: greedy, dishonest, adulterous. General scum of the earth. A pariah. No one likes the guy nor do they want to associate with him.
And in this corner, we have a Pharisee: salt of the earth, light of the world, honest as the day is long, prayerful, always setting a good example (why, just look at him there in the temple praying to God. Yep. God. He knows Him on a first name basis.)
Which of those two do you think is the “winner” in the eyes of anyone in attendance.
The terrible, grubby sinner, that tax collector, will not even raise his eyes. He grovels and begs the Lord for pity and mercy.
The Pharisee, on the other hand, stands erect and tall. He practically demands his due since he is a wonderfully pure child of the Lord.
Ah, but what does Jesus say?
He says that the sinner, the bad man, the one everyone hates is justified in his prayer because it was a penitent prayer from the heart, not a showing off before others.
The Pharisee is the loser, not the tax collector.
The crowd did not like that at all, nor did many accept it.
But Jesus doesn’t lie.
He wants sincerity of heart, not a flashy show at prayer or attempt to bring the limelight to ourselves.
FAITH ACTION: We spend so much of our time exalting ourselves, making sure that other people notice us and our many “sacrifices” for the family, friends, job, et cetera. Today, give credit to someone who is always faithful, yet silent, the one whom you can count on to do anything for you without reward. Give him or her the recognition that is that person’s due.