AT THIS POINT in His public ministry our, Lord was preaching and teaching the need of watchfulness, penance, good works and prayer. In order to show that all of these must be animated by true humanity, He gave us this story of the publican and the Pharisee.
These two men came to the Temple at one of the official hours of prayer. The Pharisee was of a group that had been founded to live a stricter and more religious life than that which custom and the Law required. By the time of Christ, however, this way of life had degenerated into hypocrisy and fanaticism. The publican, on the other hand, was one of those who were co-operating with the alien Roman conquerors of Palestine in exacting taxes. The Jews hated publicans for their disloyalty and for the thieving way in which they often did their work.
The prayer of the Pharisee was one of self-flattery for the station he held, for his outward sinlessness and respectability and for his fasts and tithes. The publican prayed with a deep consciousness of his guilt and with sorrow for his sins; above all, he asked God for mercy.
The judgment of Christ was that the publican alone was justified. How unfortunate that there are pharisaical Catholics, who feel that .they have nothing to pray for, nothing to ask pardon for, no great or small mercies for which to thank God! We should learn from the publican that true humility and a consciousness of our sinfulness form our most natural behavior before God. He will deal with us as He did with those in the parable, for He will always resist the proud and exalt the humble.
The Publican is our model of humility.
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959 © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print.