Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
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In his time, Hosea invited sinful Israel to return to the Lord after running after the pagan idols, which he called the sexual crime of “fornication” or “adultery” because Israel is the bride of Yahweh. No sacrifice in the temple could substitute for the love and faithfulness the Lord expects of his people. In the Gospel parable, the supplication of the humbled and broken heart of the tax collector is accepted by God; he goes home “justified” because his relationship with God is restored. This is not said of the Pharisee who exalts his own righteousness before the Lord and despises the tax collector. Jesus may have him in mind when he declares, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.” From the legal perspective of his kind, the Pharisee is the one who fulfills the Law, even going beyond the stipulations. But God delights in the wounded heart that turns to him for forgiveness and healing.
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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2021,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.