Children’s Homily on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

Gospel Reading for the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:10—14 (Revised Standard Version)

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Today is the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee.

A “publican” is another word for a tax collector. We heard about a tax collector named Zacchæus last week, and how tax collectors did a lot of bad things, and not many people liked them.

A Pharisee, on the other hand, knew a lot about God’s laws and always followed them. People looked up to pharisees.

Both the tax collector and the pharisee went to the temple to pray.

When it was the pharisee’s turn to pray, he told God how good he was, and how bad other people were. He said, thank you, God, that I’m better than other people, especially this tax collector. You see, he thought that he had to follow all the rules and be perfect to earn God’s love.

When it was the tax collector’s turn to pray, all he said was, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” The tax collector knew he’d been bad, and he didn’t try to get out of it. He knew that God is merciful—that God loves us all, no matter what.

The pharisee made another mistake: He thought that, as long as there was someone worse than him, he would be OK. When he was standing before God, instead of asking God to help him, he talked bad about everyone else. We all do that sometimes: When we get in trouble, we point to someone else and say, “Well he was doing something worse!” or “She told me to!”

Most of the time, we don’t even say anything. We just think it. Do you know kids in school who have a hard time following the rules? keeping their hands to themselves? who are always getting in trouble? Have you ever thought, How can they be so bad? I’m glad I’m not like them? If you do, you’re being like the pharisee in today’s parable.

The next time you think badly about someone or think you’re better then them, I want you to remember that you’re not as good as you may think you are, and God loves you both. And I want you to ask God to let you see that person the way God sees them, and see if that makes you think a little bit differently about them.


As we begin the season of Great Lent—a season seemingly filled with rules and exhortations to be holy—the Church reminds us that following the rules is not what it’s all about. If Great Lent just makes us a better rule follower, we’re missing the point.

We need to remember that God’s love is unconditional. Our society is tearing itself apart because we only see others as “idoits” because they don’t agree with us. If we don’t learn to see with Christ’s eyes, we’re doomed.

If we can keep it together long enough, maybe the next generation will get it right.


Since therefore your fasting is accompanied by pride, you must expect to hear God saying, “This is not the fast that I have chosen, says the Lord.” You offer tithes: but you wrong in another way Him Who is honoured by you, in that you condemn men generally. This is an act foreign to the mind that fears God: for Christ even said, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged: condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.” And one also of His disciples said, “There is one Lawgiver, and Judge: why then do you judge your neighbour?” No man because he is in health ridicules one who is sick for being laid up and bedridden: rather he is afraid, lest perchance he become himself the victim of similar sufferings. Nor does any man in battle, because another has fallen, praise himself for having escaped from misfortune. For the infirmity of others is not a fit subject for praise for those who are in health: nay, even if any one be found of more than usually vigorous health, even then scarcely does he gain glory thereby. Such then was the state of the self-loving Pharisee.

Cyril of Alexandria “On the Publican and the Pharisee” from

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