All That I Have Written Is Straw. . .

Meanderings of a Catholic Devout

“Thank God I’m not like that.”

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These words, “thank God I’m not like that,” are the most condemning words we can say.

Dore - the Pharisee and the Publican

Dore - The Pharisee and the Publican

The Gospel on Sunday (Luke 18: 9–14) was very sobering for me. I had heard the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the temple many times in my life and I suppose I always thought that the point was about the tax collector being more earnest about his petition for forgiveness to God. I supposed the moral was to be sincere in your prayers. But after listening to an excellent homily this past weekend, my ears have opened my eyes to the error of this interpretation.

“How many times have your caught yourself watching the nightly news, watching all the crime and debauchery that takes place, and said to yourself, ‘Thank God I’m not like that.‘,” the priest was pointing out.

We are the Pharisee. The Pharisee was not this seemingly arrogant person. In fact, had this parable been written in modern day, it might be someone who most of us would only wish we were at least half as good as.

“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,” the Pharisee says to himself. It’s not that he isn’t a fine, upstanding citizen.  How many of us fast twice a week?  How many of us actually pay a tithe on our whole income? He’s not greedy, dishonest, or adulterous.  It is very hard to find such a good man these days! But it is the comparison that ultimately displeases God, the thank-you-that-I-am-not-like-the-rest-of-humanity piece.

What does the Pharisee know of the tax collector’s situation? What if the tax collector had to face a choice between becoming a despised tax collector or starving his family to death? Could you take the high road and refuse such an offer for the sake of your family?

A man robs a bank and gets caught and I say to myself, “I’d never do that.” But the truth is, I haven’t been confronted with a situation in which that may actually cross my mind.

I see a woman holding a sign that reads that she’s looking for groceries for two and in the back of my mind, I’m saying, “yea right.” But really, what do I know of her situation? How is it that I can judge her based on some stereotypes I have about panhandlers? I have never been homeless. I honestly can’t say that I wouldn’t resort to panhandling if I were in her shoes.

No, this parable is all about me. It is terribly arrogant of me to consider myself so fine and upstanding a citizen that I have the gall to say, “thank God I’m not like that.” My heart was in my throat while I was listening to this interpretation. I have to seriously reconsider my attitude and pray to be less judgmental in my heart. My lot in life is a precious gift, not a right.


Written by Written Straw

October 25, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Posted in Faith, Life

Tagged with , , , ,

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