Are you one who likes to use lists? To-do lists, honey-do lists, checklists, shopping lists, bucket lists, things like that? There are hundreds of apps and software programs to help you with your list. Do you also do this with your faith life? Do you make a list of all the things you need to do to get to heaven and check them all off and then you are done?
This week’s Sunday gospel was about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9 -14). They are both in the temple praying. The Pharisee is all about himself, telling God what a great guy he is, how holy, how righteous. He compares himself to the tax collector telling God he’s not a sinner like him. He is checking off the boxes he thinks he needs to get to Heaven.
It’s like when you join the coffee club at your local convenience store. Each time you buy a coffee they mark your ticket. When the ticket is full you get a free coffee. The Pharisee thinks the same way. He figures when he checks off all these things he gets a free shot to heaven. Doing this will make you a good Catholic. Right? Wrong.
The way it really works is God is never finished with us. There will always be one more item to check. One more thing to do. He wants us to keep working on making ourselves ready to join him in Heaven. He doesn’t want us to become complacent. When we do, God has a way to bring us back to reality, back down to earth so to speak. Instead of being like the Pharisee, he wants us to be like the Tax Collector.
The Tax Collector knows he is a sinner. He asks God for mercy. Unlike the Pharisee who exalts himself, the Tax Collector humbles himself before God. He doesn’t even look up while he prays. He just asks God for mercy. This is what God wants from us. To be humble, to be thankful for what He has given us. This is another thing we must do to be a good Catholic.
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’New American Bible. (2011). (Revised Edition, Lk 18:11–12). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.