Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee 2-24-2013
True Humility Leads To Perfect Prayer
By Fr Ted Toppses
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
We begin the season of the Triodion today in the Church. This period is a time of transformation which affords us a chance for renewal, and revitalization of our life and faith in Christ. This period culminates in the celebration of Pascha, the feast of all feasts. Great lent is soon coming upon us, and the path of the restoration of our souls is laid out before us. Today’s Gospel of the Publican and the Pharisee expresses the deepest understanding of how we need to approach this spiritual Journey of the coming Great lent and in our entire life. Namely we need to humble ourselves before God, so that our prayers may be heard by Him. If we are proud, or arrogant and do not humble ourselves, God will reject our prideful prayers.
The devil lays out traps for us, and many times life is unfair. The blessing and the Grace to live with Christ, in His Presence, is given to us when we humble ourselves and reach out to our Lord and God. The goal of our lives needs to be that we live humbly with Christ always, living a Godly life. The unfairness of this world can be overcome with the true goal of the presence of God in mind.
St. Anthony the Great said, 'I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, "What can get through from such snares?" Then I heard a voice saying to me, "Humility."'
The Pharisee in the Gospel believed in his own importance and counted not the blessings that God had given him, but thanked God pridefully for his own superiority. The Publican beat his chest out of the realization of his own sinfulness could not even look up to God but having real humility prayed 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' and by Christ’s explanation the publican was exalted by God because he was justified in his humble prayer.
St. John of Kronstadt writes:
Remember that the one word of the publican, said from a fervent heart, justified him. God does not look at the multitude of words, but upon the disposition of the heart. The chief thing is lively faith and fervent repentance for sins.
Sergieff, Archpriest John Iliytch; St John of Kronstadt (2010-05-26). My Life in Christ, or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and of Peace in God
That quote was from St. John of Kronstadt’s work entitled My Life In Christ.
Christ further says in today’s Gospel Lesson, “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Humility is a common theme and a necessary ingredient in the composition of real and effective faith.
We may appreciate this lesson, and still ask how does a person become more humble?
Humility and pride are opposites and so the following must be observed when trying to be more humble:
1- We must, when praying, realize having the understanding in our hearts that we are coming before the Lord and Creator of All things, The Lord is our God, the God who made heaven and earth. The Lord humbles Himself to be with us, to interact with us. This is His gift He gives to us, His undeserving children. He loves us all and we must prostrate, bowing down our hearts always to Him.
2 – We must make every effort to not believe we are any more special than ANYONE else. We are all special to God. We must see all others as special, God’s Children, Our Brothers, Our Sisters, Our Parents, Our Grandparents, Our Children we are all related in God, and we must love everyone unconditionally.
3- When complimented we must deflect the compliment from ourselves by giving glory to God. God who gave us the talents in the first place, God who helps us multiply them, God who enlightens us. These are gifts from God.
4- With God we can do all things. We must be confident only in God and the gifts he has given us. We must become in our minds “God confident” not “self confident”. Humbly we need to use the blessings and gifts God has given to us, and we can be confident in Christ without being prideful.
5- We must realize our sinfulness and let our hearts always dwell on God. Realizing our sinfulness is not the same as feeling sorry for ourselves. If we feel sorry for ourselves, this is called self pity, and is actually pride turned inward. The expression of true humility is to understand our sinfulness, but not to dwell on it. We must put all effort and concentration on humbly being with God at all times, not focusing on our sinfulness but very humbly being aware of our unworthiness and focusing on God. We must never see ourselves as superior to our neighbor.
We must practice being humble to make it part of who we are. We must always be on guard of being prideful and avoid false humility which is humility displayed for others, or for credit.
We must humble ourselves in prayer and be as the Publican in today’s Gospel and in turn our prayer is heard. Our hearts are freed through our humble prayer to be with God, living true life and leaving the life of sin behind.
May the true humility of the Publican free our hearts and minds through our own humility as we offer our prayers to God.