Today’s Gospel is about two people in the temple. One is a man of religion (a Pharisee) and the other is looked upon by everyone as a sinner (the tax collector).
In today’s terms, the parable might portray two of our contemporaries. One stands up arrogantly and proclaims his innocence of any wrongdoing: he is neither racist nor sexist; he oppresses no one; he is a strong supporter of peace; he doesn’t hate anyone; he always gives everyone an equal chance.
The other stands at a distance, acknowledging his own complicity in evil and begging God’s forgiveness for his contributions to the presence of sin in the world.
Enough of all this pharisaism! If no one is racist, then why is there racism? If everyone is for peace, then why is there peacelessness? If we all stand for equal opportunity, then why are so many deprived?
We have had enough Pharisees in our world, and we don’t need anyone else to tell us how innocent they are of wrongdoing. It’s time for all of us to stand at a distance and acknowledge our own complicity in evil. It’s time to stop bragging and to beg God’s forgiveness.
The structures of our society are subtly racist, for these structures reflect the values which society upholds. They are geared to the success of the majority and the failure of the minority.
Members of both groups give unwitting approval by accepting things as they are. Perhaps no single individual is to blame. The sinfulness is often anonymous but nonetheless real.
The sin is social in nature in that each of us, in varying degrees, is responsible. All of us in some measure are accomplices.
US Bishops, Brothers and Sisters to Us, 1979: 13