After warning the disciples of the coming apocalypse and urging them to persevere in prayer with the confidence that God will answer them, Christ explains the need for the compassionate love for others and humility in God’s economy of grace. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is outstanding model of the mindset that a man should have in prayer.

Christ address the parable towards men who consider themselves to be pious and who despise others for their sinfulness. In the parable, the Pharisee pridefully stands and prays to himself, boasting to God and exalting his many pious ways. The Pharisee brags that he exceeds the requirements of fasting (two times per week versus the required one) and tithing (tithing on everything, not just select items as specified by the Law). The Pharisee, under the guise of prayer, curses others who sin, lumping the Tax Collector in with extortioners, unjust and adulterers; The Pharisee claims that he is not like the other sinners. The Pharisee doesn’t love God or the Tax Collector; he loves himself.

In contrast, Christ holds up the Tax Collector as the model for prayer. The Tax Collector stands apart, aware of his own unworthiness, eyes downcast in sorrow and guilt, beats his chest (Greek word means, “to be reconciled”) in sorrow. His prayer is simple: “God, be merciful on me, a sinner.” Christ praises the Tax Collector’s prayer; it is humble, respectful, sorrowful for sin, acknowledges God’s dominion, mercy and power to forgive and begs for God’s mercy.  Christ ominously warns, those who exalts themselves will be humbled.

1) Marvel at how, in just a short parable, Christ is able to precisely and powerfully convey the need for men to refrain from judging others and to humbly repent to receive God’s mercy.

2) Christ’s blessings for the “poor in spirit” (Matt 5:3) are for those men who recognize their own deep spiritual poverty and the need for God’s infinite mercy.  During Lent, commit to Humble Prayer (CCC 2559-2565) and, like the Tax Collector, beg for Christ to “be merciful to you a sinner.”

3) In addition to pridefully sinning against God, the Pharisee breaks the 8th Commandment by bearing false witness against the Tax Collector. During Lent, review the Catechism section Offenses Against Truth (CCC 2475-2487) and pray for Christ to help you to avoid judging and condemning others.