February 6, 2023

Homily Four on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on February 2, 1958)

Every year, shortly before Great Lent, you hear the blessed parable of our Lord Jesus Christ, which teaches us how to pray to God and how not to pray to Him. This parable is so deeply important that we need to renew it in our memory every year and delve deeper and deeper into it. Many times I have already tried, according to my understanding, to put into your hearts and minds the interpretation of this great parable of Christ.

But this year, too, a thought came to me from God that I have not yet told you all that is necessary. Therefore, let us delve once more into the grace-filled teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ to us what kind of prayers please Him and what burden Him. Hence, again I will remind you of the blessed parable of the publican and the Pharisee.

“Two men entered the temple to pray: one was a Pharisee and the other was a publican. The Pharisee, standing up, prayed within himself like this: God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (Lk. 18:10-12).

Is this kind of prayer pleasing to God? Is it pleasant for Him to listen to the proud words and self-praise of a person who, although trying to be blameless in the righteousness of the law, but attributing his righteousness to his own merits, and not to the grace of God?

Let us turn our eyes away from his hands held high raised to the sky that are self-satisfied, and turn them to the publican standing with his head low and beating his chest, unjustly demanding extra money in his favor when collecting taxes established by law and hated by everyone for this.

This universal hatred crushed and tormented the publican, and his conscience heavily reproached him.

All of us, weak people, are subject to a greater or lesser extent to bodily or spiritual passions: gluttony and fornication, avarice, conceit and pride, despondency and anger.

These passions are taught and conquered by the enemy of our salvation - the devil.

The holy Apostle Paul called the passion of the love of money and covetousness the root of all evil, and the unfortunate publican was in captivity to precisely this passion of the love of money, and people hated him for this.

But the merciful God does not leave us in captivity of passions, but with the voice of our conscience, in which our Guardian Angel quietly speaks to us, helps us to fight against the passions instilled in us by the devil and repent of them.

That is why the sinful publican beat his chest, lowering his head low. The fertile fire of repentance burned in him, he asked God for help in the fight against his greed. And this prayer of repentance, like pure incense, ascended to the throne of God. For this he received the forgiveness of his sins. For powerful before God is deep humility and repentance for one's sins, and even the terrible robbers Barbaros, Patermuthius and Moses the Black were not only forgiven by God for their immeasurably deep repentance, but even received from Him the gift of miracles.

The proud and self-exalted Pharisee, who attributed all his virtues to his own merit, left the temple less justified than the publican. He, too, received a recompense for his virtues, for God's righteousness requires retribution for small goodness, even if it is defiled by conceit and pride.

And the deeply repentant publican for his humility and self-condemnation received from God the fullness of forgiveness and justification.

Let us all, sinners and subjects to passions, pray as he prayed, beating ourselves on the chest, like the sinful publican: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). May our Lord and God Jesus Christ forgive and have mercy on us if we pray as He taught us in His great and grace-filled Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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