THE PHARISEE AND THE PUBLICAN
The Sunday Liturgy
continues to give us lessons on prayer. The Gospel tells us of
a Pharisee, whose example we must avoid, and the publican whose
example we must imitate.
It is said that
because of original sin all men are born with an overwhelming love
for self. And this self-love is expressed in presumption,
vainglory. . .and the worst is pride.
A Pharisee went to
the temple to pray. He stood and prayed thus: "Lord, I
thank you that I am not like the rest of men. I am not an
extortionist, etc." Then he adds: "I fast twice a week.
. ." And the gospel states that Christ rejected his prayer.
First, the gospel described him thus: "he stood", a symbol of pride,
while the publican stooped down, a symbol of humility.
His pride showed in
his act, now it shows in his words. He attributes his being
able to avoid sin though his own efforts. He did not attribute
it to God. The fact that we avoid evil is God's work, not
ours, but the Pharisee says, "I am not an extortionist." He
should have said, "O God, you have spared me from being an
theologically right in that to be holy we must avoid evil and do
good. And the Pharisee included both in his prayer: he
avoided being an extortionist and he fasted and gave tithes. But he
wasn't supposed to say that in his prayer because that would be
boasting. Then he adds: "I fast. . .and give tithes."
The ability to fast and do good works, like giving tithes, comes
from God. And the Pharisee believed he fasted and did good
works on his own ability.
When you pray, fast
and do good works by the power of God, then you would be pleasing to
God. But when you do the same believing you have done it
through your own power, you are displeasing to God. It is not
the deed, it is your pride, that God Rejects. So, in truth,
the Pharisee is said to pray to himself, while the publican prayed