Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Glory be to Jesus Christ! Glory be Forever!
Today, in the Holy Gospel according Saint Luke, we recieve a very powerful lesson from Our Lord on how we are to Pray! We have heard the Parable of the Publican who is a tax-collector like that of Zacchaeus; and the Pharisee who is a highly praised Jewish Rabbi and teacher of the Law of Mose. Jesus displays for us the incorrect way to pray and the correct way to pray. The Self-absorbed and Pride filled Pharisee displays for us the incorrect method of prayer and the humble and contrite Publican displays the correct method of prayer.
We must remember that when we speak of Prayer we are speaking about Communing with Holy God, one in The Holy Trinity, in other words, we as human beings are sharing in The Divine Life of Holy God through His Divine Energies while we are praying!!! This type of Communion can only happen if we appoach Prayer with a humble and contrite spirit, fully acknowledging that our poor soul is sick with the illness of Sin and we must beg Holy God for His Great and Abundant Mercy and Forgiveness!!! This is exactly what the sinful Publican does in the Gospel of Saint Luke!
The Publican realizes the sickness of his own soul and does not even raise his eyes to heaven!! He takes the position that we all need to take before Almighty God which is the road of repentance, asking and imploring Holy God for His Forgiveness and Mercy saying; "O God have Mercy on me a sinner!" This is the first and hardest step in the Spiritual Life, we must come to the realisation that we are not perfect in anyway whatsoever and that our souls are filled with sinful wounds that are foul and infected!!
We need this type of true heartfelt repentance in order for The Holy Spirit to come and dwell in our soul and body. This is our first step in our path to Deification (becoming gods by grace) which equals Salvation in the Kingdom of God, we enter into Repentance and Purification from the sickness of sin like the Publican did in today's Gospel and Holy God will forgive us our sins!!! The Publican is a true model for us in our Orthodox Christian Life!
On the other hand, the Pharisee is the exact opposite of a true Orthodox Christian! We must ask ourselves this question; "How often do we gossip about and condemn our fellow brothers and sisters as if we are perfect and sinless???"
This Pharisee is so full of Pride that he condemns his brother the Publican in the Holy Temple of God, saying; "God, I thank you that I am not as the rest of men, rapacious, unjust, adulterers, or even as this one, the tax collector."
Another question to ask oursleves; "Are we so perfect like this Pharisee in the sense that we are proud of all the good religious exterior things that we do, like fasting, and saying our prayers, that when someone dishonors us or hurts our feelings we publicly condemn them, even in God's Holy Church at coffee Hour????
I finish with the words of a Sermon written on this Gospel by Saint John of Kranstadt; "We must not exalt ourselves before others, but we should rather humble ourselves. And how many reasons to humble ourselves do each of us have! Man possesses nothing of his own; all that he has he received from God: his soul, his body, everything that he has, except for sin. Every good deed also comes from God. What can man boast of?? 'And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?' (1Cor4:7) If he boasts of his virtues, then he blasphemes, ascribing to himself that glory that belongs to God alone. Futhermore, every person is more or less in a weak spiritual state. At the very least, very many people find themselves in a state of sinful insensitivity. This sickly, false confidence they have in themselves is so unbearable, and yet they feel completely healthy and feel no need of a physician. What more motive then do we have to not think highly of our good deeds than the fact that they are, perhaps, a delusion of our soul?"
Brothers and Sisters, let us begin on this path of repentance together as the Publican shows us in today's Gospel; that we might be exalted by God for our repentance and humility and inherit the Kingdom of Heaven through our hard work of working out our Salvation in fear and trembling. Amen!!