“The Lord told this story: Two men went into the temple to pray to God, one Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself in this manner: God, thank you that I am not like other people: predators, unrighteous, adulterers, or like this customs officer. 12. I fast twice a week; i give a dozen of everything I gain. 13. And the tax collector stood afar off, and would not lift up his eyes to heaven, but thrust himself into his chest, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner. 14. I tell you, this one went to justify his home, not him. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and who humbles himself will be exalted.
“Lk. 89 (18: 10-14)
Word of Abbot Dimitri (Plecevic) in Tuman Monastery:
The basic problem of this Pharisee of the Gospel is, in fact, his absence of a love relationship with his neighbor, for he thanks God for not being like all other sinners but being righteous before God. And to be righteous in the sight of God means knowing our sins, appeasing ourselves without looking at the sins of others, and trying to bring ourselves and others to the Lord. That is why this Gospel story concerns all of us, brothers and sisters, all of us are a tax collector in our lives, by our sins, and Pharisee, a law-maker, a customs officer, a repentant, a Pharisee, by a condemnation of others. And those roles in our lives are constantly changing.
We are those who easily see the sins of others, place others on the pillar of shame, forget that God is the Father and Creator of those we condemn and those we dislike.
The modern man will say: there is a great deal of injustice in the world, this one is like this, that one is like that, but a Christian should say boldly, looking to the Lord:
“Lord forgive them that they do not know You, be gracious to them, that You may be merciful to me.”
We are not judges, brothers and sisters, we are not the ones who pay the workers of God and the hirelings of God, we are not the ones who judge the children of the Father of Heaven, because we are the same children of the same Lord. Condemning others and seeking justice for others, and grace for yourself is the same as saying to the mother of several children, “Behold, kill all your children, I am your only righteous son.” And, mother as mother, she sees that her children may be bad, she wants them to be corrected, but she loves them equally and wants them and awaits their correction. So also our God, our Heavenly Father, who by the great grace of His Only Begotten Son, gave us to become Man and to exalt us to eternity by the power of the Holy Spirit, our God the Father, the Most Holy Three await the reconciliation and repentance of each of us.
Even today, when we come out of the temple, brothers and sisters, just as the tax collector and Pharisee came out, let us cry out to God to be merciful to us sinners, to overlook our sins, let us say to Him, “Lord, we are Your children, we have no other God but you and we do not know, and You alone can save us by Your grace.” But, in the prayer we offer to the Lord, let us not condemn our neighbors, so that as soon as we leave the temple asking forgiveness, we bind others and do not forgive others, no matter what those others are, they are children of God and God is waiting for them to repent.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in this time of preparation for holy fasting, let us forgive one another in the name of God, love one another not just as we would like others to be, but just as they are. Let us accept our neighbor with love, with joy, in quiet, in Christian love and virtue, because without one another, without the other, we cannot enter into the Kingdom of God, and God cannot know us – only us, ourselves.
Therefore, as a publican, as a tax collector, let us cry out to the Lord, “Lord, do not look at our sins, and be merciful to us sinners.”
And let us not have the pride of this Pharisee, or our efforts will be in vain, our gratitude for fasting, our gratitude for giving a donation to the Church, our gratitude for all that we do if we do not work from the heart, and if we do not work to please God properly, and we please God when we have love for our neighbors. One cannot love God, brothers and sisters, without loving one’s brother, or the neighbor you see, simply, it is a law God has set for himself.
May God be gracious to us. Let him wash away our sins, let him see our love, let him see our repentance. Let us forgive, let others forgive us, and let us forgive others, and so reconciled that we may always be in union with the Lord. And when you give, brothers and sisters, whether you give to the Church, or to give to the poor, let your giving be with love, with blessing, with joy, and the Lord will always give you a strict response. Because, all that you give from your heart you, in fact, gave with part of your love, and what you do not give willingly is as if you have not even given it at all, it is all written off to you, not to you but to each of us. So, give, for love is the one that multiplies, and the Kingdom of God is the end of all our efforts, the fulfillment of our hope. “God be merciful to me a sinner”, we cry out once again, may he pardon us all and receive us all into His kingdom. Amin God bless.