Reflection & Dialogue: Do no be haughty, but associate with the lowly
Jesus used very harsh words on hypocrisy and hypocrites, on people who were accustomed to draw attention to themselves through their observance of the three pious practices of Judaism, prayer, fasting and almsgiving. He also criticized the Pharisees, and the scribes of the Pharisee tradition, for their undue attention to the external cleanness of vessels and other objects, while neglecting inner cleanness and higher values. These were all matters concerning Jewish practices. In today’s parable, although the two chosen to represent two groups were Jews, the traits of both the Pharisee and the tax collector could stand for persons of any age, including our own. It behoves the human person, in any age, to be lowly and humble in God’s presence, aware of his own human weakness and the weakness of human nature, as well as being aware of the All-Holiness of God, who understands and is concerned for all his creatures, the sinner included, in fact in particular the sinner. Today’s parable directs our attention to that.
Writing to the Romans Paul puts the essence of today’s parable is a few words: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are” (Romans 12:15-16). The same teaching is given repeatedly by Paul and other New Testament writers. It would take a treatise to present all the evidence: love of the neighbour, attending to the other’s welfare rather to one’s own. The idea is represented in the Irish proverb that people live with mutual support, under one another’s shadow. In this sense, with Paul’s statement, the New Testament teaching is very socialistic. Greater knowledge of this New Testament teaching is worth recalling.