Monday, February 10, 2014

Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

Prepared this for my 1st and 2nd graders' religion school class at my Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic parish (full communion with the Roman Pontiff).  Not sure it was at their grade level, so thought I should share it here too!  Have a great week!

2 Timothy 3:10-15
10 Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,11my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.12Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.13But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived.14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it,15and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The above scripture teaches how valuable it is to learn the sacred writings (Scripture=the Bible=Sacred Writings) from your childhood that instruct you for your salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Luke 18:10-14 - Today's Gospel in the Eastern Rite

10‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector.11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector.12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.”13But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Found this on the back of our church bulletin (not what I included in the teaching to the 1st and 2nd graders) St. Basil the Great wrote:
The stern Pharisee, who in his self pride not only boasted of himself but also discredited the tax collector in the presence of God, made his justice void by being guilty of pride.  Instead of the Pharisee, the tax collector went down justified, because he had given glory to God, the Holy One.  He did not dare lift his eyes but sought only to plead for mercy.  He accused himself by his posture, by striking his breast, and by entertaining no other motive except propitiation.  Be on your guard, therefore, and bear in mind this example of severe loss sustained through arrogance.  The one guilty of insolent behavior suffered the loss of his justice and forfeited his reward by his bold self-reliance.  He was judged inferior to a humble man and a sinner because in his self-exaltation he did not wait the judgment of God but pronounced it himself.  Never place yourself above anyone, not even great sinners.  Humility often saves a sinner who has committed many terrible transgressions.

This reminds me of a quote from St. John Climacus:
Pride is a denial of God, an invention of the devil, contempt for men. It is the mother of condemnation, the offspring of praise, a sign of barrenness. It is a flight from God’s help, the harbinger of madness, the author of downfall. It is the cause of diabolical possession, the source of anger, the gateway of hypocrisy. It is the fortress of demons, the custodian of sins, the source of hardheartedness. It is the denial of compassion, a bitter pharisee, a cruel judge. It is the foe of God. It is the root of blasphemy.

The Jesus Prayer is modeled after the prayer of the Publican.

Lord Jesus Christ, (3 words)
Son of God, (3 words)
Have mercy on (3 words)
me, a sinner. (3 words)
(12 words total)

"I am convinced that our kids and teens need to hear this prayer more than any other. It's called the Jesus Prayer and whenever we use it, we call upon Christ as the Holy Scripture says, keeping Him on our minds, in our hearts, and on our lips with every minute of the day. This short but powerful prayer sanctifies whatever task we are doing!

Fold the laundry ... and say this prayer

Drive to school ... and say this prayer
Say it in any language, say it in short or long form...
When else can you say this prayer?
Pray for others using the Jesus prayer:Take turns offering the first name of someone you'd like to sing the Jesus Prayer for, then complete the song on their behalf.

We say, 'Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on ______, your servant (or a sinner).'
Sometimes we include all the poor, the hungry, the orphaned, the priests, all monks and nuns, those with a handicap, etc.

Indeed, our true task is always the same and is always accomplished in the same way: to call upon our Lord Jesus Christ with a burning heart so that His holy name intercedes for us."
-Hesychios the Priest: On Personal Holiness

The Scripture of the Publican and the Pharisee also reminds us that the Lord our God looks at our hearts and not the outward appearance in physical traits, or the appearance of good works done to impress others or to help us feel good about ourselves.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, but read within context of 1 Samuel 16:1-13)
 The Lord wants to be merciful to us and to bless us, but we need to get our hearts right.  We need to realize our place before God, we are fully needing his loving mercy and forgiveness, and we fully need the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to remain in Jesus to accomplish anything good for him.  Hear the words of Jesus: 
43 ‘No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43-45)
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:5)

The gift of the Holy Spirit comes to us in Baptism and Chrismation (Confirmation).  The gifts of the Holy Spirit come from asking! 
9 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ (Luke 11:9-13)

Here’s an example of someone asking:
9Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?’
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.’(1 Kings 3:9-14)

God is happy to give the gifts of the Holy Spirit to those who ask.  He said this to Jeremiah, a great prophet in the Old Testament times to the people of Israel who had forsaken God to worship false gods, breaking the 1st Commandment.

23 Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; 24but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

This is why it is so important for your parents to teach you the faith, and to bring you to Divine Liturgy (Mass) and Religion School and for them to study their Bibles as well.  God delights that you learn about him, that you know him, and understand that he acts with steadfast love.
If you want to remain in Jesus, you need to learn to pray – unceasingly. 

St. Paul told us this:  “Pray constantly.” THESSALONIANS 517
The Jesus prayer is the most common way of doing this in our Eastern tradition.

Another way of praying unceasingly is to memorize scriptures and to pray them when you need to have your heart and mind refocused on the God who is always with you, always loving you, and who is all powerful to defend you in times of temptation and hardship.
Here is an example of such a scripture: 
"Come to my help, O God. Lord, hurry to my rescue" (see Ps 70:1).
Last week Sunday of Zaccheaus:                            Next week Sunday of the Prodigal Son: 

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