THIRD WEEK OF LENT
"not like this tax collector" Saturday 5th April 2016
The Pharisee in today's gospel was a good man in his own eyes and perhaps also in the eyes of fellow Pharisees. By ordinary standards - our stands - he actually seems to have a good man. He was not greedy, not unjust, not sensuous. He was disciplined and pious: he fasted twice a week and paid tithe on his whole income. Many of us fall short of that. Yet according to him who is Truth, he did not go away justified with God. Why?
In the first place he lacked love. In yesterday's gospel we heard that the greatest commandment is love; love of God and love of neighbor. This man was deficient in both love of God and love of neighbor. To love God is to love what he loves and to hate what he hates. God was that all may attain salvation. One who loves God is also pained that some of God's children are far from him. The Pharisee's attitude is comparable to the attitude of the elder son towards his father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The elder son did not share the father's grief when the younger son went away, nor his joy when he got him back safe and sound. A spirituality in which we keep contrasting our progress in virtue against those who in our eyes are far behind betrays a lack of love for God and for neigbhor. The first reading concludes with the words: "it is mercy love I desire not sacrifice, knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. The Pharisee lacked love and knowledge of God.
Secondly, he lacked humility. Jesus concludes the story with the words: "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." We hear in the Responsorial Psalm that "My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn." We can appear very high in virtue in our own eyes, if we compare ourselves with others, but before God we all stand in need of mercy. The more we get to know God the humbler we become.