He Who Humbles Himself will be Exalted

by FLL Editorial Team




路加福音 18:9-14

 © Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.

© Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P.



聖保祿提醒我們該「事事感謝」(得前5:18),舊約聖經則告誡人不該出言詆毀別人(德21:31),耶穌也教導我們不要定別人的罪(路6:37)。那個稅吏與法利塞人相反,願意痛悔己過,祈求天主的憐憫,這與舊約聖經的教導也互相呼應:「天主,你不輕看痛悔和謙卑的赤心。」(詠51:19) 稅吏的禱告自謙自卑,並重視天主永恆的憐憫,所以他能透過與天主和好,修補他因犯罪而導致他和天主關係中的裂痕。天主無法幫助不肯悔改也不求寬恕的人,所以這篇福音教我們要以稅吏的態度為榜樣。

「因為凡高舉自己的,必被貶抑;凡貶抑自己的,必被高舉。 」(路18:14)

這篇默想由生命恩泉文摘編輯小組撰寫,內容以下列文章為根據: Commentaries on the daily readings by Sacred Space, Summa Theologica(SS.Q162.A7-8), Catena Aurea on Luke 18

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 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Luke 18:9-14

In this Sunday's gospel reading, we are presented with two very polarising figures in the Pharisee and the tax collector. They are strikingly contrasted against each other to illustrate the good role model we should emulate in the tax collector as opposed to the bad example of the Pharisee.

The Pharisee's 'prayer' was completely focused on himself, the epitome example of pride. Firstly he said it "to himself", and proceeded to verbally attack "the rest of humanity" and the tax collector in listing out all their alleged sins. Finally, he ended by boasting of his 'good works'.

As St. Thomas Aquinas asserts in the Summa, pride is "the beginning of all sins". It is the primary vice of the 7 deadly sins, which can only be met by the corresponding virtue of humility.

Righteousness is worthless when driven by pride. Instead of raising us up to heaven it will instead weigh us down into the depths of hell. It leads us to the denial of God and elevates the self. Humility, on the other hand, lifts us to the divine realms as humble little children of God.

St. Paul reminds us to "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thess 5:18) instead of slandering each other which scripture warns us against (Sirach 21:28), just as Jesus also preaches to us "do not condemn" (Luke 6:37).

In contrast to the Pharisee, the tax collector was contrite and sought God's mercy. Once again scripture provides the answer: A humble and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:19).

His prayer humbles himself and focuses on the eternal mercy of God, bridging the gap with Him through reconciliation and repairing the relationship that has been injured through the wounds of sin. After all, God cannot help one who does not repent and help himself by asking for forgiveness. We are simply asked to do the same.

"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:14)

This reflection is prepared by the FLL Inspire editorial team as a digest of the following two articles: Summa Theologica(SS.Q162.A7-8), Commentaries on the daily readings by Sacred Space, Catena Aurea on Luke 18