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."
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