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 older brother was angry (Lk 15:28-15:28)

“Then the older brother

Became angry.

He refused

To go in.

His father came out.

He began

To plead with him.”

 

ὠργίσθη δὲ καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν εἰσελθεῖν· ὁ δὲ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ ἐξελθὼν παρεκάλει αὐτόν.

 

This long parable story about the 2 sons can only be found in Luke, not in any of the other gospel stories.  Luke indicated that Jesus said that the older brother became angry (ὠργίσθη).  He refused to go in to the celebration (δὲ καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν εἰσελθεῖν).  His father came out of the celebration (ὁ δὲ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ ἐξελθὼν).  He began to plead with him (παρεκάλει αὐτόν).  Now the conflict begins.  This seemed like such a nice happy story about a sinner who repented and was taken back by his father.  But now there was the other son who really did not want to go along with this plan.  He had been a hard-working farmer, while his brother went away carousing and wasting money.  Do you feel closer to the hard-working brother or the loose living brother?

You will perish (Lk 13:5-13:5)

“No!

I tell you!

But unless you repent

You will perish

Just as they did.”

 

οὐχί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀλλ’ ἐὰν μὴ μετανοήσητε, πάντες ὡσαύτως ἀπολεῖσθε.

 

Luke once again uniquely had this response of Jesus, which was the same as previously.  This response of Jesus in Luke was simple.  Jesus said “No (οὐχί)” with a solemn pronouncement (λέγω ὑμῖν).  All of them present there, if they did not repent or have a change of heart, a metanoia (ἀλλ’ ἐὰν μὴ μετανοήσητε), they would all perish, just like these people upon whom the wall fell down on (πάντες ὡσαύτως ἀπολεῖσθε).  Tragic death did not mean that you were a sinner.  Repentance for all was important.  Do you think that anyone deserves to die?

 

Baptized by John (Lk 7:29-7:29)

“All the people

Who heard this,

Including the tax collectors,

Acknowledged

The justice of God.

They had been baptized

With John’s baptism.”

 

καὶ πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ἀκούσας καὶ οἱ τελῶναι ἐδικαίωσαν τὸν Θεόν, βαπτισθέντες τὸ βάπτισμα Ἰωάνου·

 

Luke has a unique statement about everybody being baptized by John the Baptist.  He said that all the people who heard John (καὶ πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ἀκούσας), even including the tax collectors (καὶ οἱ τελῶναι), acknowledged the justice of God (ἐδικαίωσαν τὸν Θεόν).  They had been baptized with John’s baptism (βαπτισθέντες τὸ βάπτισμα Ἰωάνου).  Jesus noted that even the tax collectors listened to John the Baptist and recognized the justice or righteousness of God.  This saying of Luke indicated the importance and reach of John the Baptist and his baptism.  Do you as a sinner recognize the value of Baptism?

Jesus wants to be baptized (Mt 3:15-3:15)

“But Jesus answered him.

‘Let it be so now.

It is proper for us

In this way

For us

To fulfill

All righteousness.’

Then he consented.”

 

ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ἄφες ἄρτι·οὕτως γὰρ πρέπον ἐστὶν ἡμῖν πληρῶσαι πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην. τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτόν.

 

Why did Jesus need to be baptized, since he was not a sinner?  Some of the early Christians were not pleased about this baptismal action, since it seemed to show that John was more important.  Jesus responded to John (ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ).  He wanted his baptism by John to be done now (Ἄφες ἄρτι·οὕτως), because it was a proper and a fitting thing to do (γὰρ πρέπον ἐστὶν ἡμῖν).  The purpose of this baptismal action was to show that Jesus was obedient to the divine will as a complete righteous person (πληρῶσαι πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην).  Jesus had come to proclaim his higher ethical judgment of righteousness.  He was willing to submit to the baptism of John.  John the Baptist no longer hesitated, as he agreed to baptize Jesus (τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτόν).  There was no discussion like this in Mark, chapter 1:9 and Luke, chapter 3:21, just Jesus being baptized.

 

Fear of the Lord (Sir 32:14-32:17)

“Whoever seeks God

Will accept his discipline.

Whoever rises early

To seek him

Will find his favor.

Whoever seeks the law

Will be filled with it.

But the hypocrite

Will stumble at it.

Whoever fears the Lord

Will form true judgments.

They will kindle righteous deeds

Like a light.

The sinner

Will shun reproof.

He will find a decision

According to his liking.”

Once again, Sirach has linked everything to the fear of God. Anyone who is seeking God must accept God’s discipline. You have to get up early to seek God. You should seek the law and be filled with it. The law, of course, means the commandments of God. You should not be a hypocrite who stumbles around. If you fear the Lord, you will make true judgments that will end up with righteous deeds that kindle a light like a fire. The sinner does not like to be reprimanded. The sinner likes only the decisions that fit his way of thinking.

The problems of surety (Sir 29:14-29:20)

“A good person

Will be surety

For his neighbor.

But the one who has lost

All sense of shame

Will fail him.

Do not forget

The kindness of your guarantor.

He has given his life for you.

A sinner wastes

The property of his guarantor.

The ungrateful person

Abandons his rescuer.

Being surety

Has ruined many

Who were prosperous.

It has tossed them about

Like waves on the sea.

It has driven the influential

Into exile.

They have wandered

Among foreign nations.

The sinner comes to grief

Through surety.

His pursuit of gain

Involves him in lawsuits.

Assist your neighbor

To the best of your ability.

But be careful

Not to fall yourself.”

Surety is guaranteeing of a loan or the collateral for a loan. Obviously, a good kind person will guarantee a loan for his neighbor. However, there are shameful people out there who will take advantage of this generous guarantee. A sinner and an ungrateful person will waste this guarantee. They will abandon their rescuer. Sirach says that guaranteeing loans for others has led many a prosperous person to be ruined and tossed about like waves on the sea. Some have been exiled and wander from country to country. Quite often the sinner and his actions lead to law suits. Sirach then ends with this cautionary note that you should try to help your neighbor as much as possible, but be careful and not fall yourself.