KEEPING THINGS SIMPLE
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous (δίκαιοι) and despised others: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with/toward himself (πρὸς ἑαυτὸν), ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified (δεδικαιωμένος) rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.’” (Lk 18: 9-14)
The Pharisee is very much “with” or “by” himself, in his prayer, which is focused “toward” himself. It is focused not on God, but on his own, human vision of himself and others. So, he has more to say about himself and others than he does about God. The tax collector, on the other hand, simplifies his own vision of human matters, limiting it to the sole thing he knows for sure, – that he himself is a sinner. The rest he leaves to God’s mercy, which is the focus of his prayer.
Let me do likewise, and not hesitate to approach God, surrendering to Him all judgment over myself and others, keeping my focus simple, on His mercy. And as we approach the season of renewal that is Lent, let me not overthink things but just suit up and show up as did the tax collector, for the pre-Lenten celebrations now under way in our “temples.”