Saturday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Luke 18:9-14

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


The Pharisee in today’s gospel clearly shows us how not to be. If we are self-centered and self-seeking, we become too proud and too self-righteous. Certainly the Pharisee would not enter into true prayer, true fasting and true almsgiving for the sake of putting God and others first.

The tax collector on the other hand, is the model by which we should spend our life. We, like the tax collector, are all sinners. None of us are justified or redeemed without God’s grace. The tax collector’s simple humility, his simple prayer of asking God to be merciful to him, is true model for us to follow not just in Lent, but throughout our whole life on earth.

Today, ask yourself, do you see yourself as the Pharisee or the tax collector? If we do see ourselves as the Pharisee, it is not too late! All we need to do is to heed the words of Moses, ‘come let us turn to the Lord.’ Once we place God back in the center of our life, we will indeed have the grace that allowed him to say, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” (Fr. Emeterio dela Paz, SVD Bible Diary 2002)


The parable of the Pharisee and the publican could be a lesson on how to pray.

Christ says that prayer becomes prayer only when the person praying is sincere, when the person has faith in God.

The Pharisee, in today’s gospel, did not really pray. Instead of praying, instead of praising God, all he did was praised himself…..”I thank….” Christ says the Pharisee was not justified.

But the publican stood at the back of the temple and would not even lift his eyes. Instead, he bowed his head and beat his breast – a sign of his acceptance and acknowledgment of his unworthiness before God. And Christ says he went home justified.

He was justified because he prayed. And he prayed that he might persevere in changing his ways, his evil and sinful ways. He also prayed, we might add, that he will persevere in his attempt to be fair with others, in his attempt to love others. (Fr. Alberto Figueras, SVD Bible Diary 2004)


Coming home to God is a journey towards oneself, i.e., that is accepting who I am – my strengths and limitations, all my assets and liabilities. It takes a lot of courage to discover the truth about oneself and a lot of humility to articulate it.

Let us take the two characters in today’s parable. The Pharisees failed to see and accept the truth about himself. In his prayer he exalted himself and despised the tax collector. On the other hand, the tax collector, in all humility, accepted the truth of his sinfulness. He did not compare himself with others. In his prayer he beat his breast and beg God’s mercy and forgiveness. This man experienced peace and reconciliation with God, self, others and the world.

Here is a line from the song “Hosea” where God speaks to us: “Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply in our new life.”

God is longing for our return, to come home to Him. Remember, God longs for us first before we long for Him. Let us take the chance of coming home to God as we journey towards conversion of self and discover newness in our life. (Sr. Mary Fe Montegrande, SSpS Bible Diary 2005)


The story of the Pharisee and the tax collector is a study in contrast; more to the point a portrait of our own self.

Both were telling the truth but their attitude and the way they conveyed the truth was different. And before God that makes a lot of difference. The Pharisee was, before his own people, a paragon of virtue and of fidelity to the law. The Publican was, by his office, considered dishonest, a cheat, linked with extortion and graft. Moreover, he was collecting for the Romans, therefore hated by the Jews. The two were praying not at home but in the temple. The Pharisee was a figure of self-righteousness: of his accomplishments and his virtues as if God didn’t know. He was I, I, I, an authentic egoist. Our Lord called these grandstanding Pharisees “whitened ssepulchers, hypocrites;” to John the Baptist, they were a “brood of vipers.” The Publican confessed what God already knew: “Oh God, be merciful to me a sinner.” He could not claim what he did not possess and proclaim what he was not. He was heard by God.

We don’t want to be identified with the Pharisee, although we often are. We would rather be identified with the Publican, although, deep in our hearts, we feel we are not. We say, it’s because of our humanness. That is exactly what our Lord is driving at. To be followers of Christ demand more than the faithful observance of the law and an enumeration of accomplishments. Christ is not the Lord of laws but a new life. He is after our inner self, not the external actions, good they may be. He seeks our heart. He talks of love, mercy, goodness, righteousness, justification. All these are gifts of God, not our works. “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Fr. Antolin Uy, SVD Bible Diary 2007)


As a way of life, humility can never be practiced by the devil; a saint can. For humility is caught rather than taught. A student went to the teacher and said: “Teach me humility.” The teacher answered: “I cannot do that, because humility is a teacher itself. It is learnt by means of its practice. If you cannot practice it, you cannot learn it.”

…………For a vain person will be enumerating all his/her achievements to others, as what the Pharisee did in today’s gospel. “I am not like the rest of humanity: greedy, dishonest and adulterous.” Added to that he readily compared himself to a tax collector who to his own estimate was rather low. No wonder a proud person is always difficult to be with because she/he always looks down or finds faults in others.

On the other hand, the tax collector never exalted himself. He acknowledged his sinfulness before God, “O God be merciful to me a sinner.” (Bro. Eugenio Orog, SVD Bible Diary 2008)


Try talking to someone about himself and he will be willing to listen for hours. It is because there are people who have a keen sense of humor. The more you humor and flatter them, the better they enjoy it.

Conceit is the only disease known to man that makes everybody sick except the one who is self-conceited. I remember someone who said: “Don’t ask me to admit my mistakes. I don’t make mistakes. There is only one mistake I made in life. I once thought I was wrong about something. It turned out I was right.” Indeed, few people need voice lessons to sing their own praise. And the person who sings his own praise always gets the wrong pitch. The moral is: If you wish other people to speak well of you, avoid speaking well of yourself all the time. I also remember someone who said: “If there are only two righteous men in the world, my son and I are these two. If there is only one, I am he.”

There are many of classifying people, depending on the criteria we use to distinguish them: age, income, educational attainment, religion and so on. A deeper way of classifying people is to find out how they view themselves, others and God. This manner of classifying will divide humankind into only two basic categories: the proud and the humble. The Parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, which exemplifies different spiritual attitudes and spiritual tendencies, reveals this reality. The smallest package is a person so wrapped up in himself. (Fr. Louie Punzalan, SVD Bible Diary 2009)


March 5, 2016 Saturday

What is prayer? Do we pray? If ever we pray, how do we pray?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus shared a parable about two people who prayed – a Pharisee and a tax collector. How did they pray? The Pharisee, looking up to God, said: “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and I pay tithes on my whole income.” The tax collector, however, bowed his head, beat his breast and prayed: “O God, be merciful to me – a sinner.”

Who do we think truly prayed? The answer is obvious: the tax collector.

I personally de ne prayer as a connection. Anyone who truly prays connects. That’s what the tax collector did. He knew he sinned that’s why he went to the temple to be forgiven and asked God to remove all disconnections from his life.

If prayer is a connection, what is sin? Disconnection! Anyone who sins disconnects himself from God. That’s what the Pharisee did. He disconnected himself from God and from the rest of humanity. Actually, he did not pray; he just talked to himself and enumerated his self-importance. There is a big difference between praying to God and merely talking to oneself.

Instead of just asking who truly prayed, Jesus talked about “justification.” Jesus concluded that the tax collector “went home justified.” He added, “…for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The tax collector was so humble that’s why he was exulted. On the other hand, the Pharisee exalted himself that’s why he was humbled.

Now, we know who truly prays and who will be exalted. (Fr. Glenn Paul Gomez, SVD DWC, San Jose, Occ. Mindoro Bible Diary 2016)


GOODNESS IN EVERYONE: We learn from the Pharisee how to obey the commandments. They tell us how not to steal; how to keep the Sabbath holy; how to fast and sacrifice; and how to pray. The Pharisees were exemplary in this and therefore, not condemned for it. But they were condemned for being conceited and proud.

On the other hand, we cannot make the publican or tax collector our model because he was extorting money. He was dishonest, abusive and did not follow the commandments. We cannot follow the publican in this manner.

However, we should follow the publican in his humility. He recognized that he was nothing before God and this pleased God.

Therefore, we see that the Pharisee is not to be completely condemned and the tax collector is not to be completely followed.

There is no one so sinful that he could not be forgiven. There is no one so good that he need not be prayed for. We all need to be prayed for as we are all sinners. There is good in everybody, there is sin in everybody. Let us pick up the good, let us forget the bad. (Socrates Villegas, DD Jesus in my Heart, p. 112)


OWNING OUR SINFULNESS: “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” – Luke 18:13

During the penitential rite at Mass, I am guilty of saying in an almost mechanical way, “I confess to Almighty God… I have greatly sinned… through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” I strike my breast at the same time, just because the revised Roman Missal says so.

Embarrassing as it is to admit, it can be difficult to acknowledge my own sinfulness. It is easier to identify the sins of others rather than recognize my own. It is less painful to judge others’ shortcomings rather than admit that I have hurt God. I turn the condescending spotlight on others in order to keep it away from myself. I get arrogant enough to think that, for as long as I’m not as bad as “them,” then I’m good with God.

Truth is, all of us are sinners. All of us need God’s mercy and forgiveness. He invites us to be truthful and to humble ourselves. He will give us the grace to  acknowledge our sins if we ask. Kitty D. Ferreria (

Reflection: When you say the penitential rite at Mass, do you mean what you say?

Lord, give me the grace to know my sins and be truly sorry for them.

Blessed Ludovico of Casoria, pray for us.


1ST READING: Hosea reminds us that we should strive to know the Lord. This is the right focus for our lives — the Lord Himself and knowledge of Him. If we truly know the Lord, then it is difficult to see how we can allow sin into our lives. Knowing the Lord means that we understand that He is a compassionate and loving God who is always ready to welcome us back when we repent of our sins. (Hosea 6:1-6)

GOSPEL: Personally achieved righteousness will not gain us access to the Kingdom of God. If we rely upon what we can do on our own strength, we will never enter the Kingdom of God. The nature of sin and the damage it causes means that we are left in the situation whereby we need a “key” to enter heaven. That key is offered to us by Jesus through faith in His death and resurrection. (Luke 18:9-14)

think: Knowing the Lord means that we understand that He is a compassionate and loving God.


THE PRAYER GOD HEARS: A Pharisee and a tax collector went to the temple to pray. God was pleased with the prayer of the tax collector. The prayer of the Pharisee was rejected. Although the Pharisee began with, “O God, I thank you…,” the rest of his prayer was a self-congratulatory litany of his accomplishments. The tax collector, on the other hand, could not boast of even a single virtue. He could only mutter as he beat his breast with head bowed, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” And yet, the Gospel concluded by saying that he went home justified.

We learn two lessons from this parable.

First, we catch God’s attention when we do things with sincerity. Sincerity comes from two Latin words: sine (without) and cera (wax). Literally, sincere means without wax. In ancient times, actors who performed on big stages wore masks made of wax to project to a large audience the emotions they want to portray. To be sincere then is to be without wax, or masks.

Secondly, we catch God’s attention when we do things in humility. Humility is neither self-deprecation nor self-hate. We are not being humble when we ignore our gifts and talents. That is false humility at best. At worst, it is wallowing in low self-esteem. There is a thin line separating pride and humility. Both begin with an acknowledgment of one’s gifts and talents. But this self-knowledge becomes pride when it is done in a spirit of isolation. Look at the Pharisee in the Gospel. He knew his gifts and virtues but he saw them in a spirit of isolation, “I thank you because I am not like the rest of humanity.” His gifts isolated him from the community. This engenders pride and arrogance. But when done in a spirit of communion, self-knowledge breeds humility and gratitude. To acknowledge one’s gifts and talents in a spirit of communion means to place one’s giftedness at the service of the common good. That way, one can never be proud because one begins to see himself as a servant. And service is kindred to humility. Fr. Joel Jason

REFLECTION QUESTION: It is said that sincere people are humble but not servile. Are you enjoying the freedom of the sincere or the slavery of the proud and self-conscious?

Make me Your humble and sincere servant , Lord.


Saturday of the 3rd Week of Lent (A): Luke 18:9-14. What makes a prayer pleasing to God? The parable presents two people at prayer. One, a Pharisee, started his prayer with thanksgiving. “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” Wait, this is not a thanksgiving prayer but an act of shaming others. Isn’t it? “I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.” Oopps, this is not giving praise to God but to self. According to Jesus, God did not hear the prayer of the proud Pharisee. The other, a tax-collector, stood humbly and begged for mercy. “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” The tax-collector confessed that he is a great sinner and he knew that only God can justify him. Jesus said that God was pleased by the man’s humility, and He forgave him. (Abet Uy)


My Reflection for Saturday March 29, Third Week of Lent, Luke 18:9-14: Reflection: Have you tried conversing with those who are humble? What do you notice about them? They very rarely talk about themselves, if they even talk about themselves they see to it that it’s done not for the purpose of raising their own self image. So, we naturally gravitate towards them and we love to be with them because they carry an aura of holiness. And we naturally want to be blessed by their holiness, holiness that they don’t even know that they have within them.

Have you tried conversing with those who are so full of themselves? Of course they always talk about themselves: their accomplishment, their riches, things that they do and it goes on and on. And we don’t normally want to hear these self-serving words that only feed their bloated egos.

God would prefer also that we at all times become humble. To talk less and less about ourselves and our accomplishments for the simple reason that He already knows everything about us.  He would very much prefer that we silently practice our faith, never worrying if other would notice about it or not. Simply content to do things for the greater glory of God and not to serve our own glorification.

We are more often than not like the Pharisee in our gospel, we love to talk about ourselves and we love to boast about the things that we do. An inner renewal is in order for all of us so that we would become like the humble tax collector who gained the favor of God. (Marino J. Dasmarinas)



March 05, 2016

About the parable in today’s gospel reading, one striking characteristic about the Pharisee presented by Jesus is that, on the surface of things, he does not lie or exaggerate the truth. He says of himself that he is not grasping, crooked and adulterous—which is probably true. He specifies that he is not a shameless exploiter of the people like the tax collector is. And it is furthermore true that he fasts twice a week and gives a tenth of all his income to the temple. All this is perfectly true and certainly admirable in itself. In other words, he is a truly righteous person. So what is the problem?

The problem is that he is unaware that his righteousness is wholly the grace of God working in him. As the gospel text says, he is one of those people “fully convinced of their own righteousness.” And, because he refuses to acknowledge that everything in his orderly life is the work of grace, he believes he can look down on other, less virtuous men, and condemn them. Being unaware that his virtue is pure grace, he does not seek reconciliation with God—though he is a great sinner because of his Luciferian pride. In practice he says to God, “I do not need you.”

Do we sometimes think like that?


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See Today’s Readings:  Year I,   Year II

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