Focusing the Gospel
Key words and phrases: I am not like, I fast … pay tithes, be merciful to me a sinner, justified, humbled, exalted
To the point: The Pharisee is faithful to pious practices, but he misses the heart of prayer: inward turning to God that carries us outward to right relationship with others. We cannot honestly pray to God if we judge harshly and set ourselves apart from those we meet every day. The tax collector is justified because he admits that he has not been in right relationships (“me a sinner”). True humility is honesty about who we are before both God and others. True prayer leads to God exalting us (“went home justified”) because we have humbled ourselves before the Most High and have exalted others through our just actions toward them.
Connecting the Gospel …
… to the first reading: Sirach states in a poetic way what Jesus in the gospel parable teaches: our just God extends justice to those who petition God, serve God, and live rightly.
… to experience: The Pharisee uses his pious practices to separate himself from “the rest of humanity.” Authentic religious practices—for the Pharisee and for us today—ultimately lead us to communion with God and one another.