In Sunday’s Gospel we hear the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Both go to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray. The Pharisee thanks God that he is not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that he is not like the tax collector he can see in the Temple. He also tells God that he fasts twice a week and pays taxes on all he gets. The tax collector, on the other hand, does not dare even to raise his eyes to heaven but beats his breast and says “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”.
In one way the Pharisee’s prayer seems absurd. I think Jesus expects us to see that this is, indeed, a ridiculous attitude for anyone to take, but he is showing us our reality – we are sinners and we need God’s mercy. If we behave better than others it is because of our acceptance of God’s grace.
This Sunday is World Mission Sunday. It is important that we remember that the Church’s mission to preach the Gospel goes on all over the world, whether or not Christian missionaries have been there before. Our role in mission will be effective only if we accept that we are indeed sinners and humbly ask God’s forgiveness. Then we will be able to show God’s love to others – we sinners reach out to other sinners that we may all be able to travel together in the Church’s pilgrimage towards heaven.
This year the Church remembers especially the mission in Ethiopia. One of the elements in this mission is the development of vocational training centres in impoverished areas, so that the Gospel is preached both in word and deed. Ethiopia is suffering from internal conflict, particularly in Tigray, and food insecurity, partly resulting from this, but also through drought and the Russia/Ukraine war which is affecting food supplies in many places.
We will develop as missionaries when we ask God to take away our pride and help us to reach out to others less fortunate than ourselves. God will do the rest.