In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen (بإسم الآب والإبن والروح القدس إلهٍ واحد آمين).
In the gospel lesson and parable of St. Luke 18:10-14, we hear from Jesus about a comparison of two men: The Pharisee (a person who is a aristocrat and well known in the community) and the Publican who is a tax collector and a sinner in the eyes of the Jewish people, because he joined forces with the Roman authority by cheating his own people (the Jews). In verse 11, we learn about the Pharisee praying, exalting himself to God only more or less being a braggart telling all of his accomplishments that he did including fasting and giving tithes to the temple. In verse 13, we learn about the Publican (tax collector) who had a different attitude and approach when he prayed meaning that he did not look up to God, but talking to Him (God), because he was ashamed about himself, probably even more after the Pharisee chastised him, comparing him to other men that were sinners. In comparison to verse 11 (the Pharisee) and verse 13 (the Publican), these two men regarding how they prayed by their demeanor, words and how they stood were different, unlike the Pharisee who bragged and exalted himself what he did for God, the Publican used a different approach by beating his chest, looking down and humbling himself to God telling Him, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” Lastly, in verse 14, Jesus spoke of the Publican who was justified because of his humility and was righteous with God. Therefore, God forgave him, and he went home a happy person whereby, the Pharisee whose prayers were not answered because he was egoistic and exalted himself to God. Thus, in Christ’s own words (regarding the Pharisee), “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.” Regarding the Publican “But he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
When we read this parable, some people think, “that’s what our Lord wants us to be like the Pharisee, because I do fast twice a week (Wednesday and Friday) and give tithes of all that I make to the church, and I am not like other men who sin or like that parishioner standing far off.” “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”, as Gomer Pyle would say, because Christ put a twist at the end of this parable telling us “I tell you this man (Publican-tax collector) went down to his house, justified rather than the other (Pharisee).” Now let’s move forward with this reflection into 2020. Believe it or not, I still hear people say years ago “they really did not brag too much in church, because there was not anything to brag about!” Then I tell them, “read St. Luke 18:10-14, people were bragging and exalting about themselves during Christ’s time. “Let me get to the point or message Jesus is telling us. He’s happy when we fast, and give tithes to the church, but do you ask God to forgive you for your sins like the Publican when he said, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” Or are you like the Pharisee who bragged and exalted himself thanking God he’s not like other men who sinned and not like the Publican. Don’t we all get caught up in this? And if we do, you need to add to the prescription of fasting, giving tithes, and of course even praying, and that would be “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”. Christ is looking for sinners who ask to be forgiven, not braggarts who exalt themselves. Let me add to this sentence. You can give thousands and thousands of dollars to the church (That’s great!) but don’t brag about it, and compare yourself to another parishioner, because he may not be as wealthy as you are. Therefore, the bottom line again is, you can give all the money you want to the church, but don’t forget, about the fourth part of that prescription “God be merciful to me a sinner” which is the most important part. You can even say this at confession. In conclusion (and to summarize so to speak), our Lord wants sinners to confess they are sinners to Him. And when you do go to confession and if you cannot think or remember if you have sinned to tell your priest, you could say, “if I offended someone or hurt anyone without my knowledge, I am truly sorry Lord for my sins.” We are all sinners, including this wordsmith of this reflection.