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."
The Pharisee and the Publican
Pharisees get a bad press, always trying to trip Jesus, verbal terrorists, lobbing tricky questions. Yet, to be fair, many were decent people. Nicodemus, was a Pharisee. St Paul was a Pharisee and was proud of it.
The one we meet in the Gospel is a real creep. It’s hard to fault him. But he doesn't pray, he talks to himself, we all do. ”I thank you Lord that I am, not like the rest of people. Greedy, dishonest, adulterous… like this man. I fast twice in the week…. “He is too good to be true. No flaws! Wrong, he does reveal what he is like inside: Conceited, judgemental and contemptuous of others.
The second player barely comes in the door, conscious that he is tainted with corruption. He knows it and says it, as it is: O God be merciful to me a sinner - a cry from the heart. And Jesus says - this I understand - this poverty of heart I accept.
Schindlers List tells the story of a German business man, a rogue, yet a rogue who put all his energy into saving Jewish people from the extermination camps. A moving story based on the book Schlindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally. There is a frightening incident in the book. The SS, the Gestapo surrounded the synagogue Stara Boznica the oldest synagogue in Poland in the Warsaw Ghetto. There, they found a group of traditional Jews with beards, side locks and prayer shawls, orthodox Jews, good people. But they wanted numbers. They combed the surrounding buildings. Among those who were pushed into the synagogue was a notorious criminal Max Redlicht, a Jew by birth but one who had ceased to practice, a figure in the Warsaw underworld. When the synagogue was full, the doors were locked and an SS broke open the Ark which housed the sacred scrolls and placed the Torah on the ground. The SS then ordered the congregation to line up and file past and spit on it, under the threat that if they failed to do so they would be shot, it must be visible on the calligraphy. In the end, everyone did, except Max Redlicht. When his turn came he walked up and said: No, I will not do this, I have done many things in my life but I will not do this. The SS shot him and then everyone else and burnt the synagogue over them.
Whom do we identify with? The sinner in the gospel, Max Redlicht the notorious criminal, Oskar Schindler the rogue business man, or the self righteous Pharisee?
This is the Story of Jesus drawn from the four Evangelists
Gospel passages accompanied by a number of brief commentaries