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Peter with the tax-collector

Peter with the tax-collector (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luke 18:9-14
New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Source: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+18%3A9-14&version=NIV

Commentary

This passage follows the Catholic Mass reading for today. It’s so self-explanatory that I hardly need to add anything. Actually I don’t. But as a former wannabe who considered becoming a priest but discerned it wasn’t his path, I’ll take this opportunity to comment.

When I attend Mass, it seems like, broadly speaking, there are two types of people. Some seem to enjoy showing off their fine threads and being seen. And others seem to go mostly to see God. Quite a difference. Now don’t think for a moment that I’m suggesting that all the rich go just to be seen and every poor person goes mainly to see God. I think that’s a silly stereotype that is best forgotten. Just because someone is rich does not mean they aren’t pious or sincere. And just because a person is poor does not instantly protect them from behaving vaingloriously.

I tend to go to a church where many of the parishioners don’t appear to have a lot of money. I like the vibe there. And while most of those folks just mind their own business and go to see God, there are a few who visibly strut their stuff, as if at a fashion show or social club instead of God’s House. So my point is, Jesus’ teaching here is pretty clear: Be sincere and don’t look down on others. But we shouldn’t assume that only the rich can be shallow snobs. I think anyone has that potential. And I believe it’s something we all have to watch out for.

—MC

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