Lk 18: 9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

All set?

Today’s Gospel acclamation proclaims that God is busy reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19). Indeed. Though there’s only so much God can do to draw us closer to himself. In every divine invitation to reconcile, the ball is put in our court and we are faced with a decision of how to respond. Reconciliation only works if both parties show up with soft, humble hearts and an openness to move forward. This is why the sinner is ultimately deemed righteous, for he admits his need, and in humility, opens himself to movement, to transformation. Compare this with the self-identified righteous man who stands before God with no need of anything. He is self-sufficient, as if saying to God “Look, I’m all set.” There is no movement because apparently none is needed.

Do you know of people who present themselves without need, who are immovable, and “all set”? Are you like this?

——Christopher Alt, SJ, is a member of the Midwest Jesuits. He writes for The Jesuit Post and is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago.


Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

—The Jesus Prayer