The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


Reflection on the Gospel of the Thirtieth Sunday In Ordinary Time(Mission Sunday)


Luke 18:9-14

In this simple parable, Jesus challenges those who believe that they are righteous. The Pharisee boasts of his religious and moral observance. He is one of the faithful ones. The others are no good. The tax-collector, on the other hand, is so ashamed of his sinfulness that he stays at the back of the temple and prays for mercy and forgiveness. We know enough about Jesus’ other parables to realise that action will still be required of the tax-collector.

The point of Jesus’ parable here is perhaps to be aware of our fundamental stance or attitude in relation to God. Am I able to recognise the truth of my sinfulness, my moral duplicity and complicity with the forces of darkness and evil? Once recognised and confessed, the light can come in with healing, forgiveness, amends and new life.

The story is for all of us. With whom do I identify with in this story? Observance of the law for a Jew is an act of thanksgiving for God’s care and love. How difficult it is for us to accept that we are loved by God without ifs or buts or qualifications.

I am loved not because I am good but because God is good. My sinfulness and failures are not reasons for doubting God’s love, but rather inviting me to marvel all the more at his loving kindness.

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