And to some who
trusted in themselves as just, and despised others, he spoke also this
parable: Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee,
and the other a publican.
The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee
thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust,
adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week: I give
tithes of all that I possess.
And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his
eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful
to me a sinner.
I say to you, this man went down into his house justified rather that
the other: because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled:
and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.
from the Catholic Encyclopedia
The lesson [the
Parable of the Unprofitable Servant] is driven home by contrast, once
more, between the pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9-14), disclosing
the true economy of grace. On the one hand it is permissible to
understand this with Hugo of St. Victor and others as typifying the
rejection of legal and carnal Judaism; on the other, we may expand its
teaching to the universal principle in St. John (4:23-24) when our Lord
transcends the distinction of Jew and heathen, Israelite and Samaritan,
in favour of a spiritual Church or kingdom, open to all. St. Augustine
says (Enarr. in Ps. lxxiv), "The Jewish people boasted of their merits,
the Gentiles confessed their sins".
It is asked whether those "who trusted in themselves that they were
righteous and despised others" were in fact the pharisees or some of
the disciples. From the context we cannot decide. But it would not be
impossible if, at this period, our Saviour spoke directly to the
pharisees, whom He condemned (at no time for their good works, but) for
their boasting and their disdain of the multitude who knew not the law
(cf. Matthew 23:12, 23; John 7:49). The pharisee's attitude,
"standing", was not peculiar to him; it has ever been the customary
mode of prayer among Easterns. He says "I fast twice in a week", not
"twice on the Sabbath". "Tithes of all that I possess" means "all that
comes to me" as revenue. This man's confession acknowledged no sin, but
abounds in praise of himself-a form not yet extinct where Christians
approach the sacred tribunal. One might say, "He does penance; he does
not repent". The publican is of course a Jew, Zacchaeus or any other;
he cannot plead merit; but he has a "broken heart" which God will
accept. "Be merciful to me" is well rendered from the Greek by the
Vulgate, "Be propitious", a sacrificial and significant word. "Went
down to his house justified rather than the other" is a Hebrew way of
saying that one was and the other was not justified, as St. Augustine
teaches. The expression is St. Paul's, dikaiousthai; but we are not
required to examine here the idea of justification under the Old Law.
Mystically, the exaltation and abasement indicated would refer to the
coming of the Kingdom and the Last Judgment.