July 28, 1996
Brother John Raymond

	The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is one of three
 principal parables on prayer according to the Catechism. (Lk.
 18:9-14) Recall that the Pharisee, standing in the temple, prayed,
 thanking God that he was not a sinner like everyone else, especially
 the tax collector. He then recounted to God all his good works:
 fasting twice a week and giving tithes on all he possessed. The tax
 collector standing some distance away would not lift his eyes. He
 struck his breast saying, "O God, be merciful to me a sinner." Jesus
 said that the tax collector went home justified, but not the
 Pharisee. Then Jesus concluded by saying that he who exalts himself
 will be humbled but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.
	The Catechism comments that this parable "concerns the humility
 of the heart that prays." (#2613) The Church continues to make the
 prayer of the tax collector its own__"Lord, have mercy on us."
	Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P. in his commentary on the Gospel of St.
 Luke tells us this parable continues the theme, found in St. Luke,
 of salvation to the lowly and to the outcast. The proud Jews of the
 Old Covenant, typified by the self-righteous Pharisee, would be
 rejected. The New Covenant people would consist of Gentiles and
 sinners. The Pharisee went beyond the requirements of the Law and
 let God know it. The Pharisee felt that God needed him. The tax
 collector, on the other hand, felt the need for God, for His mercy.
	St. Bede, a Doctor of the Church, wrote four ways that the pride
 of arrogant men is disclosed. 1. When they think the good within
 themselves comes from themselves. 2. When they believe the good
 within them comes from God, but consider that it is owed them
 because of their merits. 3. When they boast of that which they don't
 have. 4. When, despising others, they desire to appear as having in
 a unique way whatever it is they may have. The Pharisee seems to
 have fallen into 3 and 4.
	Now we might be tempted to say to ourselves, after hearing this
 parable, "I'm sure glad I'm not like that Pharisee," echoing in
 ourselves the very sentiments of the Pharisee! We would be,
 according to St. Bede, dwelling on our own virtue and upon the sins
 of those who we consider worse than ourselves. A priest once gave a
 good homily concerning charity toward others. After Mass a woman
 thanked him for his homily adding, "Too bad so-and-so wasn't here to
 hear it."
	St. Bede tells us we would do better to imitate the tax
 collector. We need to keep before our eyes our own failures in God's
 service and at the same time the virtues of those who are better
 than us. We will then be humbled unto glory rather then exalted unto
 ruin. According to this Saint we will be glorified in the measure
 that we bow down in supplication within ourselves, praying, "O
 Almighty God, have mercy on me Thy suppliant: for I am not as Thy
 innumerable servants, sublime in their contempt of the world,
 admirable in virtue, angelic in the glory of their chastity, as are
 also many of these who, after public offences, merited by their
 repentance to come to love Thee! And also, if I, by the gift of Thy
 grace, have done anything of good, in what measure I have done it I
 know not; or what penalty may be weighed by Thee in the scales
 against it, I know not!" (PL 92, col. 551. Expositio in Lucae Evang.
 Lib. V.)
	Humility is nothing more than the simple truth about ourselves as
 we stand before God. Mother Teresa of Calcutta comments that we are
 in trouble when we forget we are sinners. Even the sinless Blessed
 Virgin Mary returned Elizabeth's compliment by exclaiming, "My soul
 proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my
 Savior for He has looked with favor on His lowly
 servant...the Almighty has done great things for me."
	Jesus, though He was God, stooped down to our lowly condition
 "and took the form of a slave," according to St. Paul. May Jesus,
 meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto His so that we
 can pray like the tax collector, "O God, be merciful to me a