Saturday the 3rd Week of Lent
The Pharisee in the Gospel prided himself on being virtuous and despised the tax collector. But there’s more than one way of being a Pharisee. Another way is to make excuses for yourself for not being virtuous, and then find fault with someone else for not being perfect. That’s a way of exalting yourself by cutting someone else down to size, and it’s no less a sign of the Pharisee.
Charles Péguy talks about this kind of Pharisee in his book, The Mystery of the Holy Innocents. He presents God as saying to Himself:
The Pharisees want other people to be perfect.
They insist upon it and demand it, and speak of nothing else. But I’m not so demanding.
Because I know what perfection is, I don’t demand so much of it from human beings. Because I am perfect because I alone am perfect.
I am All-Perfect. I am also less difficult, less demanding.
I am the Holy of Holies.
I know what holiness is. I know what it costs. I know what it costs, I know what it’s worth.
The Pharisees are always calling for perfection, for other people. In other people.
But the saint who wants perfection for himself, in himself,
and who searches for it and labors for it in pains and tears, and who sometimes obtains a certain degree of perfection, the saint is not as difficult as others are.
He makes fewer demands of others. He understands. He demands a good deal of himself, is hard on himself.
It is a little more difficult than being hard on others.