Pride, humility, trust in God. These are the themes that emerge for me from the readings and responsorial psalm this week.

Pharisees were highly regarded in Jewish culture of that time, while tax collectors, on the other hand, are often thought to have cheated people, fattening their own pockets by charging them more than the required taxes and were despised for being collaborators with the Romans. Yet the parable that Jesus tells turns things on its head in a complete and surprising reversal of roles. Jesus starkly contrasts the smug pride of the Pharisee as he self-righteously congratulates himself for his own good deeds with the image of the tax collector standing humble and contrite with eyes downcast, aware of his own sinfulness, too ashamed to even look up to God. The Pharisees would surely not have been amused by the rather unflattering portrayal of one of their own. Would they have been outraged by the audacity of this carpenter from Nazareth?

What about the ordinary people? Would they have been shocked by the unconventional depiction of conventional roles?

Taking the Pharisee at one end and the tax collector at the other, where do I stand on this continuum? How is my heart oriented when I pray? When I pray, where is my focus? Am I like the tax collector, conscious of my own inadequacies and intent on walking humbly with my God? Or do I, like the Pharisee, let my ego take over and take pride in my own strength and efforts at living a good life, thinking that I am better than “the rest of mankind”? Do I exalt myself and pat myself on the back for being active in church and serving in a ministry and think that by doing so, I have earned myself a special place in the Kingdom of God?

This week’s readings reveal that our God is not a God who is impressed simply by social status, good deeds or the appearance of piety. Humility and trust in God are what is needed. Everything I am and everything I have comes from God. If I am too full of myself, there is very little room for God’s grace to work in me.  In emptying myself of pride and egotism, I make room for God to pour his graces into my life.

Any good that I am able to do is because of God’s grace working in me. If I am to live out my Catholic vocation, “He must grow greater, I must grow less.” (John 3:30)

“This is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

Written by
Eve Ng
Ministry of Lectors