Every year when we begin the Triodion, we are looking at the characters of two men. One is a Pharisee the other, a tax collector, and from their example, we learn the message of humility.
Years ago, when a group of us were studying the gospel, we were encouraged to put our thoughts as to how we would look upon these two men today. Then, we were to examine how Jesus may have looked upon them. How does Jesus look upon us?
Matthew tells us that the Pharisees were all about entangling Him in His talk. Remember the famous line "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites"? The other, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's."
Jesus knew how to silence them, with His questions. He could see right through them, as the secrets of their hearts were revealed to the Divine God, who knew just how to answer their questions in a way that were totally awesome.
The character of the Pharisee was today's know it all, the one with all the answers, because you are nothing and know nothing, just do things as I say, type. He would be the one to want to quickly belittle you in front of other's, to make him look like the big authority. It is all about him. He has you under a microscope and wants to crush you like the maggot you are, so you had better comply to his will. Unable to think for yourself, he must control you. He justifies himself before God and men, saying I live correctly, doing all the things prescribed by the law. Of course he's not like other men, he's better. He's an example of Prideful, boastful and arrogant. Self glorification, and (A look at me kind of guy). God knows just who and what he is....anything but humble.
The Tax Collector is no better. Taking from other's who have very little, in a form of steeling. After all, it is his job. He was a man who was probably despised by many. He was living an extravagant life at the expense of others, having engaged in an occupation that was not admirable, that he knew was wrong, because it hurt his brothers.
They were both sinners, as we all are. If we were to look at both of them, in today's society, we probably would judge in favor of the Pharisee, the upright man over the tax collector. How wrong we are then, most of the time, in our dealings with our fellow man.
Jesus knew that the tax collector had remorse in his heart and wished to change. The heavy burden of the tax collector, is apparent upon entrance of the temple, as he was unable to lift his eyes to heaven, praying to God to have mercy upon him, "a sinner."
The end of the parable teaches us that if you do not become humble, you will be humbled. After all, we are but dust, clay molded and formed from hands of our maker, who loves us more than we are entitled, nor can we understand, in the dept of our unworthiness, who cry out, "Have Mercy Upon Me, O Lord, a sinner."
Step number one is that we MUST be rooted in humility, an example given by Christ Jesus Himself. "Learn from Me for I am gentle and lowly in heart." (Matt Chapter 11:29)
The gospel references are taken from The Orthodox Study Bible. (see also) Matthew 22:15, and Luke 18:10-14.
The Lenten season introduces many of my favorite hymns. This troparia accompanies us throughout Lent: Taken from the Great Lent Journey to Pascha, written by, Alexander Schmemann is the following:
Open to me the gates of repentance, O Giver of Life,
For my spirit rises early to pray towards Thy holy temple,
Bearing the temple of my body all defiled;
But in Thy compassion, purify me by the loving kindness of Thy mercy.
Lead me on the paths of salvation, O Mother of God,
For I have profaned my soul with shameful sins,
and have wasted my life in laziness.
But by your intercessions, deliver me from all impurity.
When I think of the many evil things I have done, wretch that I am,
I tremble at the fearful day of judgement.
But trusting in Thy loving kindness, like David I cry to Thee:
Have mery on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy.
This is where we begin....Begin, to get our "hearts right."
Without God, we are nothing......
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