The parable we hear in the Gospel today reflects to us the disposition we are to have in prayer. There is the Pharisee and the tax collector. Both seem to be honest and devout in their stance before God. Both men go to the temple to pray. Both are praying to God, addressing him. Both are seemingly pious and seek God with a genuine heart- so what is the problem?


Jesus addresses this parable “to those who were convinced of their own righteousness”. The Pharisee has done many things well but his heart is proud and boasting. The Pharisee boasts of his duties and responsibilities and judges himself as apart from the rest of humanity. Notice the contrast with the tax collector. He is humble, not even raising his eyes to heaven. He is aware of his failures and his weaknesses. The psalmist says, “the Lord hears cry of the poor”, the one who humbles himself in the sight of God. A very simple definition of humility given to us by Francis of Assisi is “knowing who God is and knowing who I am”. God is the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who gives good things to those who trust in him. God has created us and watches over our life. He is the source of all blessings.

The tax collector goes home justified because of his disposition of humility. He knows who he is, a tax collector, acknowledges his wrong, and seeks the mercy of God. On the other hand the Pharisee knows what he does, boasts on his duties and tells Gods who he is! – Not like the rest of humanity. Isn’t it God who tells us who we are?


St. Augustine writes in relation to prayer that “man is a beggar before God”. In prayer we raise our hearts and minds to God. We have humility in our heart seeking the loving response of God who listens to the prayer of the humble. Prayer is a gift given by God. We make no possession of this gift but give God thanks for allowing us the opportunity to come and present our requests before him. Prayer is adoration and worship of the God who is, a merciful and loving God. The tax collector meets all this in his humble prayer and goes a happy man justified before his God.


Do I practice humility in my life before God and others? Do I pray and seek God like the tax collector? Or am I like the Pharisee who tells God who I am?


Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, be merciful to me a sinner. Amen.