Identifying with the Sinner

December 14, 2021
Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent
Readings for Today

Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor—Memorial


Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did.”  Matthew 21:31c–32a

This statement of Jesus, made to the elders and chief priests, would have been hard to believe.  Were tax collectors and prostitutes really entering the Kingdom of God before these religious leaders?  Was Jesus really saying that the holiness of the prostitutes and tax collectors actually surpassed that of these religious leaders?  He certainly was!

It was especially the pride of these religious leaders that made it difficult for them to accept these words from Jesus as true.  They thought highly of themselves and expected others to think highly of them also.  They were convinced of their own self-righteousness and it was quite an ugly scene.

But Jesus cut through all of this by elevating the prostitutes and tax collectors to the Kingdom of God.  What a “slap in the face” this was to the religious leaders.  But it was a slap they needed for the good of their own souls.

The best reflection we can take from this is to ponder to whom we more easily relate.  Do you relate to the prideful religious leaders of that time?  Or do you relate more to the tax collectors and prostitutes?  Perhaps it’s hard to admit to relating to either group.  Perhaps the tendency is to want to identify ourselves as good and righteous people without admitting to any kind of weakness or personal failings.  But this is not a grouping Jesus gives us.

The truth is that we should all see ourselves in the grouping of the tax collectors and prostitutes.  Why?  Because we are all sinners.  No, we may not be guilty of the same sin as they were, but we are guilty of sin and we have to admit it.  And, in fact, if we cannot admit our weakness and sin, we are no different than the elders and chief priests.  We are also stuck in our own pride and our own self-righteousness.

Reflect, today, upon with whom you most closely identify.  If it’s hard to see yourself as a sinner like the prostitutes and tax collectors, then maybe you have the sin of pride that the religious leaders had.  Try to pray for humility.  Pray that you will see yourself as God sees you.  Only in the light of this truth will you find freedom.

Lord, please do fill my heart with humility.  And in that humility, help me to see myself as I am.  Help me to see my sin but also to see my longing for you.  Help me to turn to You in my sin and to experience the joy and freedom of those entering Your Kingdom.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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Featured image above: Christ and the Adulteress By Polidoro da Lanciano, via Wikimedia Commons