Sometimes when you hear a homily or read a passage in Scripture a lightning bolt hits your heart and you just know that a word or phrase in that passage is for you. That happened to me today. The Gospel is the familiar story of the Publican and the Pharisee. The Pharisee stands in the front of the temple and in his prayer he thanks God because he (the Pharisee) is so good and so wonderful and not like others who are sinners. The Publican, on the other hand, remains in the back of the temple, and refusing to raise his eyes to heaven, begs God to have mercy on him because he is a sinner. Father Robert Barron, in his DVD series on "Conversion," says over and over again, “Jesus loves sinners!”
In the past, when meditating on this passage I would always see myself in the place of the Publican. However, today, I saw myself as the Pharisee. He was one self-righteous man! ooooo I hate that word – self-righteous! But I know that at times I am that way, looking down my nose at someone who is less than perfect – like me!! I am sure that is God’s word for me this Lent. I was reminded of the Indian proverb which, with great wisdom, tells us not to judge a man unless we have walked a mile in his moccasins. I am glad I remembered that.
You know, when you come to Religious Life, it is not because you are holy but in order to become holy! When I entered religious life I came dragging behind me my pride, my selfishness, my impatience with others. God’s way of helping me to grow in holiness is, at the right time, convicting me of my sin. He did that today. So, like the Publican I am standing before the Lord with my head bowed, begging for his mercy – because I am a sinner.