“But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”
Jesus, in today’s parable, is speaking to those who “were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else”. Yet I suspect anyone can benefit. Consider: One is justified, and the other is not. Why? Because “the Lord hears the cry of the poor”. The Lord hears the cry of the one who recognizes and accepts his/her own poverty, rather than denying it by the trumpeting of righteous deeds. It is only the one who knows poverty who begs for mercy. The one convinced of personal righteousness has no need to cry out for anything. He/she is self-sufficient, with no admitted need for forgiveness, for grace, for mercy. Yet true humility, the admission of one’s own truth, is not to despise oneself, but rather to offer up to God the self which God created, giving back, in humility, that which is God’s gift: one’s self.