Genuine repentance and pretentious piety stand in stark contrast in the gospel and all around us. We may expect the religious leader to be praised and held up as an example of a faithful, devoted worshipper, but as is so often the case, Jesus’ parable for today — The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector — sweeps away our expectations. Jesus surprises the disciples and us when he says the tax collector (that morally suspect, second-class citizen) goes home “justified,” right with God. If we simplify the parable’s message to an admonition to be like the tax collector and not the Pharisee, though, we demonstrate the same condescending, judgmental attitude Jesus warns against. We are all both saints and sinners, utterly dependent on God’s forgiveness and love. Jesus tells this parable to remind us that God is merciful to all sinners, including us. For this we worship and glorify God forever.
image: Stone carving of person with clasped hands. Photo copyright © Lucinda Naylor. Used by permission.