Thank you, Lord, for making us so wonderful.

God does not want to see us dragged down and humiliated by the weight of our sins, but if our self-satisfaction leads us to see ourselves as better than others... not only the feet, but even the heart has reached the mud.

May 20, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes

One of the most striking parables of the Gospel is known as the "parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector," which the evangelist Luke records in chapter 18.

The reality is that God does not tolerate sufficiency: the temptation to be so satisfied with oneself that we end up considering ourselves the measure of all things. That is the sufficiency of the Pharisee, of the one who, surely, did many "good things" but had reduced them, in his inner self, to an exercise of mere self-fulfillment and who, moreover, looks askance at those he considers sinful, impure and imperfect.

The Pharisee is the incarnation of that attitude of arrogance that, as Charles J. Chaput points out, not infrequently, we find in our churches: "How many homilies and songs do nothing but subtly stroke vanity? How many prayers, in effect, say, "Thank you, God, for making us so great. Help us to be even better than we already are'?"." the Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia wryly asks in Strangers in a strange land.

And so it is. Not infrequently, our judgment is clouded a little, because of that capital sin called pride that may seem so far away but is so sibylline in reality. Pride "in a small way", the one that gets into our heart in the form of applauding our image in a mirror, until it takes complete possession of our love. It is then that we do not see God as a merciful Father but as a "giver of rewards": "O Lord, you must grant me this because I am great (as you see)".

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We approach God expecting him to give us a medal for the wonderful gifts we have obtained by our own means... Like the Pharisee. We are delighted to have met each other and even more delighted "not to be like that other guy". And, from Luke's account, the Lord is not particularly thrilled about this.

Not because God wants to see us sad, complaining, dragged down and humiliated by the weight of our sins, but because, when our self-satisfaction leads us to see ourselves as better than others, a kind of pristine ivory tower that could well serve as an example, when we imagine our hagiography with chapters and cover... not only the feet, but even the heart has reached the mud.

I remember when Pope Francis published that letter of August 20, 2018 in which, asking forgiveness for the abuse of minors, he said: "with shame and regret, as an ecclesial community, we assume that we did not know where we had to be, that we did not act in time recognizing the magnitude and seriousness of the damage that was being caused in so many lives". I heard, then, a person who gave "moral lessons", affirm that he thought it was unfair that the Pope put everyone in "the same bag because he did not have to ask forgiveness for anything like that", and indeed, he was; like you and me surely. But he was forgetting that key point of our faith called "the Pope's faith. Communion of Saints and why we are all, in some way, in the "same bag": publicans and Pharisees. Even more, because we are sometimes one and sometimes the other. Because we can always return to the temple to recognize that, at the end of the day, if we have anything to say before God, it can be summed up in those three words of a modern saint: thank you, forgive me and help me more.

The authorMaria José Atienza

Editor-in-Chief at Omnes. Degree in Communication, with more than 15 years of experience in Church communication. She has collaborated in media such as COPE or RNE.

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