Reflections on the Holy Scripture: the Pharisee and the Publican



"…Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Lk.18:10- 14 (About the Publican and the Pharisee), from Sunday liturgical reading on the February 5, 2017)

This short familiar passage tells me once again, how important it is to read the Gospel carefully and with prayer, to read the passage several times, as if you want to memorize it. Then you get the wish to understand the meaning and the desire to check the explanations of the words and expressions – and that which was clear after first reading may lead to questions after the fifth reading. Actually, that Gospel fragment does not start from the tenth, but from the ninth verse: «
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others» - and then you begin to understand that the main message of this piece is about the human righteousness and the righteousness of God.

The Pharisee supposes himself pious, because he does charitable works. He fasts, gives tithe, and does it in a bigger capacity, that is required by the Law, He probably has to make an extra efforts to do so, for example fasting – in those times to fast means not to eat at all. Obviously, to judge and abase your neighbor is forbidden. As for the publican, it is certainly good that he asks for forgiveness, that he grieves, but it is not said in the passage, if he is going to change his life as, for example, Zacchaeus had done. And almost all Gospel commentators say that the Pharisee not only went home less justified than a publican, but even condemned. Because God looks on this situation in quite a different way, for Him the condition of our heart is important. It’s difficult for us to see the interior, but the external we see quite well.

But what is the truth of God for me personally? Is it welcome for God what I do and how I do it? Is it that what the Lord wants from me? I’ll try to ask these questions more frequently, especially in the situations, when it seems to me, that I act correctly. May the Lord help us! 

Prepared by nun Matrona (Lukashova)
St. Elisabeth Convent, 
February 4,2017

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