The Publican and the Pharisee
Yesterday's Gospel of the Publican and the Pharisee is was one of the preparatory Sunday Gospels, leading to the Great Fast. The Gospel reading from Luke contrasts two different people and the way they approach God in prayer. The Pharisee approaches God, thanking Him for the good that He sees, and talks about how he gives back. The publican (tax collector) cuts right to the chase and says, "Oh God be merciful to me a sinner." Jesus tells His disciples that the publican went home justified, rather than the Pharisee.
We can recognize some of the good in the prayer of the Pharisee. He thanks God. He shares with God what he's done with his income, how he's obeying the law given by God. But what does he lack? He lacks humility and recognition of God's great mercy. He lacks the love of the law as described in Psalms, "With all my heart I seek you, let me not stray from your commands."
Compare that to the publican. The publican recognizes that he is a sinner and throws himself on God's mercy. He knows he can't live this life on his own and that he needs help. He knows that God's mercy is the only thing that can save him.
As we approach the Great Fast, may we remember that we are sinners and God's mercy is our salvation. May we approach Him with humility and reverence. Let us run to Him and plead for his mercy.