The Psalm of King David

Luke 18: 9-14
Hos 6: 1-6 / Psa 51

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
(Luke 18: 9-14)

Be merciful to me, a sinner,
Heal me, Lord, of this affliction;
In Your compassion please deliver
This proud soul from its conviction.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18: 9-14)


In today’s Gospel of Luke, Jesus cautions us never to give any importance to feelings of righteousness, lest we become proud like the Pharisees of His time. Instead our Lord wants us to assume a servant’s heart for serving others. He doesn’t want us to give any importance to our piety or good works because He wants us to learn the greatest of His virtues, which is humility. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

As humility is the greatest of virtues, its opposite is pride, which is the greatest of all sins. As Jesus demonstrated in His parable, pride can set in even in our prayers when we begin to feel moral superiority over others. All of us are sinners, and there is nothing we do that can justify us in God’s eyes. King David expressed it so well in today’s Responsorial Psalm, where he prayed, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” (Psa 51:3-4). Conscious of how his great sin had offended God, he prayed for forgiveness, and gave us one of the most beautiful psalms ever written, which we sing as a song of penitence: “Create in me a clean heart, put a new and right spirit within me; cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.” (Psa 51:10-13)

St. Paul advised in his letter to the Romans, “Do not think of yourself more highly than one ought to think, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Rom 12:3). Jesus tells us that when we pray, we must not pray like the Pharisee, thanking God for his piety and righteousness, and reminding God of one’s good works. Instead, we should pray like the tax collector, feeling unworthy, with head bowed down, genuinely penitent and regretting how we have offended Him, our loving and forgiving Master.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity (Psa 51). Amen.

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