23rd October 2016
Thirtieth Sunday of the Year
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is one of Luke’s very perceptive parables – to some extent it makes us stop and ponder because it does the classic thing of turning things upside down: it appears that the ‘bad’ person goes home at rights with God and the ‘good’ person does not.
If we just look at the words of the two men, we learn a lot about how they understand prayer. The Pharisee begins with the word ‘I’ – indeed he uses the word six times in a prayer of just thirty nine words.
A simple analysis suggests that for the Pharisee prayer is about himself. The tax collector begins ‘God’ and his prayer of seven words has a stark honesty about it – it is totally concerned with God. The great prayer of the Mass is similarly completely God focused – humanity certainly has a place there, but the whole focus is always on what God has done, on what God is doing and on what God will do.
The invitation to the individual believer is to examine their own understanding and form of prayer and perhaps conform it more to that of the tax collector – and the Mass!