The Pharisee And The Tax Collector

Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
"Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
'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.'
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.'
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."  Luke 18:9-14 (NAB)

I have to be honest, I laughed out loud when I read today's Gospel!  There were times when I was that Pharisee approaching the altar and feeling oh so smug about myself.  Then one day after Mass, I was with some other women who were openly critical of who was going up to Communion.  I was horrified and I never looked at it the same again!
I think it's a natural tendency to be critical of others because we elevate ourselves in the process, but it's a dangerous business on many levels.  We can lose sight of God and make what we do more important.  We can also hurt people by that attitude and find ourselves isolated from our community.
Lately, after communion, as I watch the faithful come down the aisle, I have prayed for the intentions of others.  It takes my mind off my own stuff and fills my heart with compassion rather then smugness.

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