Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture passages in which we heard about the pride of the Pharisee and the humility of the tax collector, in a parable that the Lord Jesus told to the people and His disciples. Using that parable, the Lord wanted to show just how great God’s mercy and love for each and every one of us is, that no one is truly excluded or prevented from receiving His merciful love.
The Lord mentioned a tax collector and a Pharisee because of the prejudices and perceptions that each one of them experienced at that time. The tax collectors were often treated with disdain and contempt, with distrust and suspicion due to the nature of their work in collecting the taxes for the Roman governor and administration, while the Pharisees were treated with reverence and adulation because of their respected position in the community.
Therefore, there was then a strong bias against the tax collectors, who were collectively treated as rebels, traitors and unworthy of being members of the community of the people of God. The tax collectors were shunned and treated as if they were great sinners who were incapable of receiving God’s mercy and unworthy of God’s love. This is such while the Pharisees were seen as holy and pious group of people, who always made public their prayers and devotions before everyone.
Through the parable He mentioned, the Lord Jesus wanted to break this prejudice and bias, which the people have had in their hearts and minds. He wanted to show them that even a tax collector in truth was aware of the sins and whatever wicked things he had done, and having been treated so badly by the community in general, it was quite certain that they must have felt very bad about their own actions.
But the tax collector in the parable, knowing and understanding about his own shortcomings, humbled himself before God and begged Him to show mercy and compassion, admitting his sins before Him, unlike the Pharisee who did not just brag about his own achievements and supposed piety, but also looked down and ridiculed the tax collector before God, thinking of himself as being more worthy than the tax collector.
In the eyes of God, a repentant sinner is far more worthy than a proud person who may outwardly be pious and good, but in truth, is still a sinner in heart. In fact, pride is the number one reason why many of us have continued to live in sin, firstly because we refused to admit that we have been wrong in our way of life, and secondly, we have that false sense of security and even superiority, in thinking that we are better off than others who seem to be deeper in sin than us.
Pride is a great obstacle in our path and journey towards God’s grace and loving mercy, for pride keeps us hardhearted and stubborn, unwilling to seek healing for the sins and wicked things we have committed all the while. And it also often gives us the reason and excuse to say no to God’s offer of mercy and forgiveness. But at what cost, brothers and sisters in Christ? Nothing less than the salvation of our souls!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to reflect on our own lives, on our every actions, words and deeds. And surely we will become more aware of how sinful or broken we have been in life. But are we going to allow our sins and our brokenness to continue to affect us through life? Or are we going to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, He Who alone is capable of healing us from our sins?
Let us all therefore pray for the grace to be humble like the tax collector in the parable that Jesus said to the people. Let us pray for the grace to be aware of how sinful we have been, and how broken our lives have become, and ultimately for the grace and courage to seek healing through forgiveness that comes generously from God alone. May the Lord continue to guide us through our journey in this season of Lent and beyond. Amen.