Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

Today, we hear of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went up to the temple area to pray.  The self-righteous Pharisee says, “‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.” 

By contrast, the tax collector says, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

It was the tax collector who went away justified.

This is another reminder of the importance of a balanced view of who we are before God.

On the one hand, we are made in the image of God (see Gen 1:27).

On the other hand, we are sinners in need of a Savior (see Mt 1:21).

If we hold to the first while ignoring the second, we likely fall into the sin of pride.

If we hold to the second while ignoring the first, we can fall into the sin of despair.

We need to hold both together.  We respond to God with great gratitude for being made in his image.  We also acknowledge our own sinfulness and continually ask for God’s mercy.

The tax collector’s words here are used by the Orthodox in the Jesus Prayer that they repeatedly pray:  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”  Not a bad practice for us either, whether repeating it in silent prayer or as we go about our day.  But, we also remember to give thanks for being made in God’s image.