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Lenten Reflection: Day 26

Gospel, Luke 18:9-1

In this chapter we have three examples of prayer: one of the persevering widow; another of the poor publican, who solicits the divine mercy by the acknowledgment of his crimes; and the third of the proud Pharisee, who only goes to the temple to pronounce his own panegyric, and enter upon an accusation of his humble neighbour, whose heart is unknown to him.

The Pharisee standing. The Greek is, standing by himself, i.e. separated from the rest. Some understand this term, standing, as if in opposition to kneeling or prostrating, which they supposed to be the general posture in which the Jews offered up their prayers, and that of the humble publican. The Christians borrowed this practice from them. We see the apostles and disciples praying on their knees: Acts vii. 59, ix. 40, xx. 36. In the Old Testament, we see the same observed. Solomon, (3 Kings viii. 54.) Daniel, (vi. 10.) and Micheas, (vi. 6.) prayed in that posture. Others however, think that the people generally prayed standing, as there were neither benches nor chairs in the temple.

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The pride of the Pharisee seems to have consisted in attributing to himself alone the qualities of which he boasted. (St. Gregory, mor. lib. xxiii, chap. 4.) He who is guilty of publicly speaking against his neighbour, is likewise the cause of much damage to himself and others. 1st, He injures the hearer; because if he be a sinner, he rejoices to find an accomplice; if he be just, he is tempted to vanity, seeing himself exempt from the crimes with which others are charged. 2nd, He injures the Church, by exposing it to be insulted for the defects of its members. 3rd, He causes the name of God to be blasphemed; for, as God is glorified by our good actions, so is he dishonoured by sin. 4th, He renders himself guilty, by disclosing that which it was his duty not to have mentioned. (St. Chrysostom, Serm. de Phar. et Pub.)

If anyone should ask why the Pharisee is here condemned for speaking some few words in his own commendation, and why the like sentence was not passed on Job, who praised himself much more; the difference is evident: the former praised himself without any necessity, merely with an intention of indulging his vanity, and extolling himself over the poor publican; the latter, being overwhelmed with misery, and upbraided by his friends, as if, forsaken of God, he suffered his present distress in punishment of his crimes, justifies himself by recounting his virtues for the greater glory of God, and to preserve himself and others in the steady practice of virtue, under similar temptations. (Theophylactus)

Haydock’s Catholic Bible commentary, 1859 Edition.

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