By By Rev. Fr. Rommel M. Arcilla
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
posted 24-Nov-2019  ·  
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The Gospel last Sunday pointed out to us the real meaning and essence of humility and penance. In like manner, it was also made clear to us through the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, what self-righteousness means. How I wish that, after hearing the parable, we are now enlightened as to how we should pray and especially regarding our intentions in our prayers.

The story of the tax collector and the ‘falsely virtuous’ Pharisee brings us closer to reality even in our times as we know that people like them both are still present today. There are a lot of people who pray thanking God that he/she was not born as wretched as those sinners around them. Maybe they really think that they are the only “sons and daughters” of God and those who are perennial sinners must not be included in their fold.

These honorable and righteous men and women may have a reason for doing so, but whatever reason they may have in their hearts, I still would choose the kind of prayer that the tax collector uttered. It was a pure awareness of his being sinful and a genuine prayer of forgiveness from a God, whom he never even dared to look at because of his sorry state.

No one is perfect but God alone and we all know that. Still, there are people who would always compare their achievements to the failure of others. There is no wrong in trying to achieve our goals and ambitions in life, but our success in doing so is also not a license for us to look down on other people. We do not even know their situation in life which may have contributed to their failure. Moreover, we do not have the slightest reason for making fun and to insult their failure. The problem is there are people who look at almost everything in life as a competition even if those whom they are trying to overtake and beat did not, in the first place, enter into such a competition. “We’ve been beaten left and right, defeated and humiliated, and we now accept our loss and still some people would still want to trample down on us push us to the limits of our patience and sanity.”

The fact that we know our imperfection must also bring us to that awareness that maybe we have also made some mistakes and may have even caused those little ones to fall into sin. This awareness supposedly must bring us to penance and to ask for God’s forgiveness and strength so that we may never go back to the same attitude and to that ‘old life’. It’s just sad to think that only a handful have this kind of awareness because we’ve been destroyed far and wide by our own false idea of righteousness.

Who are the so-called righteous people in this present age, by the way? I believe these are those people who appear to be good and honorable not because they are, indeed good, but simply because they have not yet been discovered as corrupt and immoral men and women. They are the present-day Pharisees and you can meet them at almost every corners of our society, especially in those places where only the rich and the famous are welcomed. I admit and I know that we were all created with all the propensity to commit sin and to fall even if we really did not intend to fall. They say that it is part and parcel of every human being. However, we cannot just sit there and watch the world to pass us by without doing anything to remedy the situation. We are prone to commit mistakes as human but we must also have that drive within us to get past our weaknesses and cling to that grace and strength from God which will surely bring us to our own success. It is the success of making Him alive in us by letting go of our very self, of our own whims, caprices, and selfish ambitions.

The prayer uttered by the tax collector is an admission of his guilt. It was an acceptance of the punishment due to his sins, and his asking for forgiveness is also his resolve to renew his life and seek the Light, who is God. To ask for forgiveness needs a serious and conscious decision to turn away from evil. We may not succeed in our first attempt, but who is preventing us from trying a second or a third try?

We always have the tendency to justify and reason out that we are righteous in front of the whole world. We find it hard to accept our faults and maybe we have lost already the sense of sin. We may have the belief that there is no sin, and everything that we do, are acceptable because almost everyone around us are doing it too. Sometimes these evil things are even recommended by some crazy individuals who also have lost their sense of God. This might be painful for us to accept, but this is the truth and this is the reality of things around us. This is the kind of virus that has inflicted the whole of humanity and this is the kind of mentality that really destroys our relationship with other people.

My dear friends, we want change in our lives but not all of us want to change our very life. If we really want to renew our lives, we must have the humility of the tax collector in the Gospel and his attitude of allowing God to guide him by submitting himself to His will. Let us get over with our baseless competitions which can destroy us all and may even drive out the demons from each and every one of us. Let us learn to appreciate and not despise our brothers and sisters. Let us help one another in carrying our own crosses so we may be able to travel lightly from this world to His heavenly Kingdom.

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