Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. Is that me? Sometimes I think I'm doing a pretty good job of things...I don't despise everyone else... but I know some people who seem to despise most other people... but I don't...does that make me righteous...like the Pharisee?
"Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The religiously devout and the outcast. Which am I? I go to Mass. I pray. Am I like the Pharisee?
"The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this pray to himself (so really, he's just talking 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. Yeah, sometimes my 'prayers' sound a little like that, if I'm honest. I do the right thing most of the time, Lord. And I've heard from others so many times, "Well, at least I don't cheat on my wife, I don't steal, and I haven't killed anyone. Some people __________. At least I never did/don't do that! I'm basically a good person. I don't know why I need to go to confession when the priest is a sinner, too."
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.' Yep, nailed me there. I go to Mass nearly every day. I say the Rosary. I support the church. I help other people. I schedule the altar servers. I don't eat meat on Fridays during Lent. I'm a Eucharistic Minister (to be). I'm doing pretty darn good, aren't I Lord? Better than a lot of people....
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.' Whoa - how often does that happen in my life? On occasion, to be sure. There have been times, when I catch a glimpse of things as God sees them, and have been overcome with a sense of shame and a certain knowledge of my need for God's mercy. Once it happened when I was walking across the parking lot at school - of all places. Other times in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. But other times, I know that I'm a sinner, but I'm pretty sure that I'm not as bad as everyone else. I mean, I know other people have more stuff that needs confessing than *I* do. And some of them haven't been in y.e.a.r.s There's that Pharisee again...or the evil one doing his best to keep me from Confession. Comparing myself to other people when I should be comparing myself to God and His ways.
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Lord, You know I'm trying. That's one reason I go to confession. The need to humble myself. When I say those things aloud - whatever they may be, however they may compare to those around me - when I admit those things to another human, I see how I compare to You, Lord. I know that I offend He who is all good. And I am sorry. More than anything, I don't want to do it again. But, Lord, without You, I'm not going to make it. I need You. O God, have mercy on me a sinner.