Jesus 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.” Luke 18:9-14
Today, the season of Lent begins, and so with it, we turn, from the merry making of Mardi Gras to the humble examination of our lives. We turn the palms from the pageant of Palm Sunday into the ashes of today. We turn our hearts to self-examination and prayer. We turn, not to self-abuse but to self and community preparation for the coming of Holy Week and Easter. We let go, rather than give up, in our turning. We turn to honesty from pretending, to transparency from self-delusion and control to making room for transformation.
Jesus tells a story about the real life of faithful people. It is never about the public self. It is always about the private self. A faithful person responds with honesty and humility in the face of God's loving presence. We are all human and all broken, and it is what we do with our humanity and brokenness that truly matters. We are invited by God today to be truthful about who we are and what we do, and make room for God's trnasforming love.
Today, I ask God to help me be humble and honest today and everyday. May we begin Lent with honest self-examination, making room for God's transforming love in our lives, preparing us for the true gift of the Easter to come.