Was the Pharisee, in the gospel of the Pharisee and the publican, all that bad? After all, he prayed regularly; he fasted; he tithed. Isn’t that what we are all called to do?
I think we can take this Pharisee at his own words, and believe him when he says that he fasted, tithed, was not dishonest, nor greedy, nor adulterous. Those things are good and virtuous practices, and we are pleased that he hasn’t chosen the opposite way of life. But the most important thing of all was missing in his daily existence, and that was a heart that is humble before God. A perfect example of that was not only his vanity, but also his judgmental attitude toward the tax collector, who
was also in the temple to pray.
Right about this time in the gospel reading, everyone nods their heads, knowing that this Pharisee is going to get his come-uppance (a negative term for his deserved “reward”). Sure enough, Jesus says that the Pharisee was not in a right relationship with God. On the other hand, the tax collector, who had humbled himself, was deemed by Jesus to be in right relationship to God.
Yeah. Jesus! Perhaps we might be inclined to say that today. Then we remember that we are called in every parable to put ourselves into the story. Do I live like that Pharisee – things like counting up my rosaries, faithful Mass attendance, using the church envelopes, volunteering for church activities… And thank God I’m not like those other so-called Catholics who don’t go to Mass regularly, or who dissent with Church teachings, or who party too much, or… they are well on their way to hell...
UTOH! Do I regularly fall into this trap of self-deception, becoming the judge of the salvation of others (and thereby implying that I surely am not like them)? Do I realize that this is a confessable sin? Recognizing and acknowledging our own sinfulness is an act of humility that puts us back in
right relationship to God.
Humility is the core foundation of our relationship with God. God calls us to always preach the Word and to at times call others to repentance, which is a spiritual work of mercy. We must always carefully distinguish between judging the actions and judging the person. There are indeed actions
that are objectively and intrinsically good or evil, but we must not take the next step of determining the guilt (i.e., salvation) of the person. That is a responsibility that lies only with God. Leaning this balance correctly is what we call wisdom, a gift from the Holy Spirit and the right application of revealed knowledge.
--Deacon Joseph Pasquella