I have always been able to relate to the gospel story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk 18:9-14). After all, there are so many Catholics who don’t practice their Faith. There are some who even go to Mass each week and still justify dissenting from Church teaching. Others, like myself, go to Mass and obey everything that the Church teaches, with the possible exception of following Jesus’ command to “love one another”!
Why is it so easy for us to be uncharitable to those who chose not to follow the rules? It’s because we get so caught up in our dislike for the sin that we sometimes transfer those feelings to the sinner. As someone who loves the Catholic Church, I sometimes forget to be charitable to those Catholic politicians who support abortion rights and others who feel they can “pick and choose” the doctrines that they will follow. While it is extremely important for us to point out sinful behavior, we must always be charitable and prudent. That means that we must choose the correct time to mention it to our brothers and sisters and shouldn’t attempt to embarrass them in front of others. They may not even understand that their erroneous beliefs are wrong. In that case, we may want to subtly educate them by using very general examples and not come across in an accusatory manner.
In the aforementioned gospel story, the Pharisee was a holy man. Judging by his actions, there was certainly a love of God in his heart. His big mistake, however, was in looking down on the tax collector. The Pharisee made the common mistake of thinking that he was better than the other man. He forgot that we are all sinners. The tax collector, on the other hand, simply asked for God’s mercy. He knew that he was a sinner.
The simple lesson to be learned from this story is that we should never think that we are holier than others. That attitude, in and of itself, indicates a lack of holiness. We must recall that we are all sinners in need of the Savior’s redemption. By doing that, we will be less likely to think badly of others and more likely to be charitable as we assist those who may need guidance.