Practice virtue, as we still remain humble and flee from pride

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Ode 5 Verse from the Triodion

Let us make haste to follow the Pharisee in his virtues and to emulate the Publican in his humility, and let us hate what is wrong in each of them: foolish pride and the defilement of transgressions.

This past Sunday marked the beginning of the Lenten Triodion. The gospel reading was from Luke concerning the Pharisee and the Publican. It is a simple and straightforward reading that warns us of how virtuous living can be corrupted by self-love and pride, leading to contempt of God and our fellow man.  The Pharisee’s prayer is not a prayer. The Pharisee prayed “with himself.” He basically instructed God to look at him and all the good he had done, while also showing contempt for his neighbor, the Publican: “Thank God I am not like this man over there.” His virtues were undermined by his prideful contempt of God and his fellow man. The Publican offered nothing of any self-righteousness in his petition. He was bowed down, almost kissing the ground, saying “Lord be merciful to be a sinner.”  What the Pharisee did not see in himself, the Publican did. The Publican acknowledged his enslavement to a life separated from God, crying out and lamenting his unworthiness.

The canon verse says it all. How do we embrace the virtue of the Pharisee and emulate the Publican in his humility? We hear the following from the epistle of James:

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. (James 1:16-18)

All that is good comes from the Father of lights. Let us not get deceived into thinking that the good that has its source in God the Father somehow becomes a possession of ours, for which we can take credit.  I have remarked in many a sermon that one of the first words a child learns (probably after mom and dad) is the word “mine.” Once that happens, that very young toddler is on the road to becoming a prideful Pharisee. So how do we overcome this? Only by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. We have to daily remind ourselves of the words from James’ letter.

  • Remind your children daily that life is a gift from God and all that we have that is good comes from God. We have no rights to anything.
  • Discipline your child when he starts to brag about his good deeds at the expense of making himself out to be better than others.
  • Repeat the following verse from the gospel as often as possible. “He who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Explore with your children what this means to them. How do they live these words?

The blessing of the Lord be upon you,

The unworthy +Paul

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