3rdweek in Lent, Saturday – 21st March 2020 – Luke 18,9-14
Justified by God’s grace
Jesus’ verdict towards the end of the parable makes explicit that only God can “justify”, i.e., put one in right relationship with him. By adopting the posture of vulnerable humility and confessing his sin, the tax collector, and not the Pharisee, receives the kind of justification that matters. The publican acknowledges himself to be a sinner without doing penances and expiating his sins, is declared justified and acceptable to God, while salvation is refused to one who was forcing himself to attain it by his penances and scrupulous observance of the law. The Pharisee’s acts of piety, in and of themselves, are laudable. Undeniably, self-justification leads only to self-delusion. The majority of the text (29 of 36 words) describing the Pharisee is devoted to the content of his prayer, while the tax collector’s prayer consists of only six words. Whereas nineteen of the twenty-nine words used to portray the tax collector are devoted to a description of his posture in prayer. By acknowledging his sinfulness, the tax collector has aligned himself with other characters in Luke: such as Peter (5,8), the prodigal son (15,18), and the thief on the cross (23,40-41). Through his prayer, the publican was touched by God’s grace, forgiven by him, reconciled and in communion with him.