The tax collector prayer (Lk 18:13-18:13)

“But the tax collector,

Standing far off,

Would not even

Look up to heaven.

But he was beating

His breast.

Saying.

‘God!

Be merciful to me

A sinner!’”

 

ὁ δὲ τελώνης μακρόθεν ἑστὼς οὐκ ἤθελεν οὐδὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἐπᾶραι εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, ἀλλ’ ἔτυπτεν τὸ στῆθος αὐτοῦ λέγων Ὁ Θεός, ἱλάσθητί μοι τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ

 

Luke has Jesus continue with this parable about a Pharisee and this tax collector that is only found in this gospel.  Luke indicated that Jesus then turned to the tax collector (ὁ δὲ τελώνης), who was standing far off or a distance away (μακρόθεν ἑστὼς).  He would not even look up or lift his eyes to heaven (οὐκ ἤθελεν οὐδὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἐπᾶραι εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν).  He was beating his breast (ἀλλ’ ἔτυπτεν τὸ στῆθος αὐτοῦ), a common form of penance.  He prayed to God (λέγων Ὁ Θεός) that God would be merciful to him (ἱλάσθητί μοι) a sinner (τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ).  Instead of thanking God for being good, this tax collector admitted his guilt, not looking up, but striking his breast, asking God to be merciful to him because he was a sinner.  We have two different regular activities, and two different attitudes.  The Pharisee was a better actor in doing the right thing, but had a bad attitude.  The tax collector was not doing the right thing, but had a better attitude.  Are you a good doer or do you have a good attitude?

The difference between the rich and the humble (Sir 13:21-13:24)

“When the rich person totters,

He is supported by friends.

But when a humble person falls,

He is pushed away

Even by friends.

If the rich person slips,

Many come to his rescue.

If he speaks unseemly words,

They justify him.

If the humble person slips,

They even criticize him.

If he talks sense,

He is not given a hearing.

When the rich person speaks,

All are silent.

They extol to the clouds

What he says.

When the poor person speaks,

They say.

‘Who is this fellow?’

Should he stumble,

They even push him down.

Riches are good

If they are free from sin.

Poverty is evil

Only in the opinion of the ungodly.”

Sirach points out the different attitudes that we have toward the rich and the poor. We tolerate and encourage bad behavior by rich people, but we put down the good behavior of poor people. If a rich person totters a little bit, everyone will come to help him. If a humble poor person slips, his friends push him away. Everyone tries to justify the unseemly words of the rich. However, they will criticize the words of the poor, even if they make a lot of good sense. No one will listen to the poor, but everyone is silent when the rich speak. They will say how wonderful he is. On the other hand, when the poor person speaks, they will ask, who is this guy anyway. If a poor person stumbles, they will push him down further. The only way that rich can be good, is if they are free from sin. In fact, the ungodly think that poverty is evil. It is a tough life if you are poor, but everyone will cover your mistakes if you are rich, because you have “affluenza”.