Daily Gospel Reflection – Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Bishop Robert Barron
March 18, 2023
Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Gospel: Lk 18:9-14
Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
*United States Conference of Catholic
Bishop Robert Barron
Friends, today’s Gospel compares the self-centered prayer of the Pharisee with the God-centered prayer of the tax collector.
The Pharisee spoke his prayer to himself. This is, Jesus suggests, a fraudulent, wholly inadequate prayer, precisely because it simply confirms the man in his self-regard. And the god to which he prays is, necessarily, a false god, an idol, since it allows itself to be positioned by the ego-driven needs of the Pharisee.
But then Jesus invites us to meditate upon the tax collector’s prayer: he “beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’” Though it is articulate speech, it is not language that confirms the independence and power of the speaker; just the contrary. It is more of a cry or a groan, an acknowledgement that he needs to receive something, this mysterious mercy for which he begs.
In the first prayer, “god” is the principal member of the audience arrayed before the ego of the Pharisee. But in this second prayer, God is the principal actor, and the tax collector is the audience awaiting a performance the contours of which he cannot fully foresee.