(Lk 18, 9-14): Two men pray in the temple
There are two characters in today’s parable. Let’s take a look at them and then look at ourselves to reflect on some messages we may get.
The first one is the Pharisee. He seems to commit no sin, greed, dishonesty, or adultery. He is right saying that humans are sinful. He is a very good faithful, fasting twice a week, paying every tithe. However, after his prayer, he went home empty-handed, unjustified. So some can say God is not fair to him. He has not committed any sins, he has done great things and finished his duty perfectly. Why? Why has he not been justified? Is God unfair?
Let me share with you a story coming up in my mind.During a very dry season like what we are experiencing here – Tamale, but not here, it was in Yendi side, happened a frog was suffering to look for water. He was so thirsty and tired that he seemed to be collapsed. Luckily, there were some eagles passing by noticed the dying frog. Having pity on him, they landed to help him. Being aware of his problem, they told him that there was a stream beyond the two mountains and that he could go there for water. “What? Those two big mountains? How can I get there while I can’t fly?” the frog said sadly. The eagles came up with an idea that they could help him to fly there. So they held the four legs of the frog and started flying. At first the frog was so nervous that he couldn’t breathe easily. He was afraid of the hight. But after a while, he could come down and took it easy. He started enjoying the journey. The mountains became small in his sight. They flew across the first mountain and the valley came. The frog was exited looking down, especially when a herd of monkeys saw him and started shouting “Wonderful! Who? Who came up with such a wonderful idea?” He was so excited that he did not mind the eagles holding his legs. He released his right foreleg, pointing at his breast, saying “It’s me. I’m the one…”. He didn’t finish his words before he fell from the sky, hit against a rock and died.
The frog in the story ended up his life terribly because he was too proud of himself and forgot what the eagles did for him. He was thinking that he is the one flying throughout the mountains and valley. That is what going through in the Pharisee’s mind when he is praying. He acts as if his goodness and holiness were of his own making. He is proud of himself instead of God. He does not want to except that God is the very one taking care of his life. He makes a long list of what he has not done and of what he has done. “I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous (…). I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” Through this he wants to tell God that “God, now you can see who I am, you should be happy about me and with what I have done”. Like the frog, he points at himself and says “I am the one” and he also ends up his life in vain.
He really repeats what our ancestor Adam and Eve had done, committed the original sin. He wants to become god of his life.
On the contrary, the tax collector is ashamed at what he has done in return to what God has done for him. He looks at himself in truth. He sees himself as sinner. He accepts the truth that he is helpless and only God can save him. He needs God to show him mercy. He even thinks that he deserve not to be forgiven and he dare not look up. He puts his destiny in God’s hand and waits for the compassion.
What is the message for us through the Gospel? I think we are all aware that we are gifted in all things we have and in what we do. So let God be God in our lives. We should also accept the truth that we are sinners and we need God’s forgiveness.
(Reflection on the Gospel of Saturday of the Third Week of Lent)