Bountiful Spirit - March 13, 2021
Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, `God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you; this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Reflection by Robert Parker
In some ways this is a personal parable. Jesus speaks of two men who are worshiping, one a pharisee makes the right gestures and follows the holy law of the time and is glad he is not like other people. The other person, a tax collector ( they really must have been disliked) throws himself on the mercy of God without making any amends for his sins yet is justified by his asking for mercy.
As Episcopalians we outwardly demonstrate our faith, for example genuflecting, the holy communion, making the sign of the cross, tithing, the holy water and the lighting candles for the departed or for people who are ill or in distress. None of this is wrong. Of course this is not our most important response to our faith Our most important response is to follow Jesus’ example on earth manifesting in Christian acts of charity, kindness and justice. If we transpose our symbolic actions and gestures to the parable, we see it is not necessary for our salvation. We are called to be humble which apparently the pharisee was not. He wished to be exalted. He was also glad he was not like other men who commit sinful acts., Most of us would agree with the pharisee, but humility and not judgement of sinners is key Christian virtue.
In this parable Jesus does not require repentance from the tax collector but only his plea for mercy. Yet the Pharisee had faith too, although he demonstrates his faith without humility. I find this to be a personally hopeful parable. It emphasizes we only are justified by faith and God’s grace and not the symbols and rituals of the faith. Good to know.