COLLECT OF THE WEEK
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. - Book of Common Prayer, p. 217
How does a disciple of Jesus think of himself or herself compared to others? It is so easy to slip gradually from an awareness of “sins and wretchedness” to that quiet feeling that maybe I’m not so bad a person after all – I’ve done a few good things in my life; I live decently, especially compared to the evil I hear about on the news every day…
Jesus breaks into these thoughts in no uncertain terms in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Luke even identifies the target audience for the parable: “some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else”. Ouch.
Unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector doesn’t compare himself to other people – he considers his standing before a holy God, sees his own sin, and seeks mercy. Jesus says this humbled one is the one who goes home justified, the one who will be exalted. This is a disciple.
May God grant us the mercy of a deep sense of our own sin as we stand in His holy presence, and keep us from the ever-present danger of comparing ourselves to and looking down on others. Only then can we fully receive the forgiveness and indwelling Spirit that will equip us for discipleship.