Kamal Hourani is a first year student in the Religious Studies Program at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also a participant of our Digital Disciples Program.
The Gospel of the Pharisee and the Publican is read every year to open the Triodion, the preface period to Great Lent, and it is a highly familiar parable to all Christians as an analysis of the weight of humility versus pride; however, the layers of depth in meaning are infinite and ripe for us to peel back.
In a recent article on the Ladder, the blog of the Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, Christian Gonzalez challenges a common misconception about humility: that humility requires us renouncing ourselves as horrible human beings.
The Publican, a complete societal outcast and breaker of the law, goes before God and begs for mercy, so many people think that in order to be humble, we must abase ourselves as scum before God as well, but Christian asserts that this is not the point of the parable. The publican was acceptable before God because his humility gave him an disposition toward seeking God as his savior. His heart was empty of all resistance or ego, allowing God to find room and begin to reorder his life.
The Pharisee, on the other hand, had no room in his heart for God because his heart was oriented toward himself. This man was convinced he was the origin and progenitor of his own righteousness. He cuts himself off from a relationship with God because he has made himself self-sufficient and not in need of a savior. The Pharisee may have followed the law perfectly, but before the face of God, all human beings are equally in need of saving.
God does not ask us to degrade ourselves but to be honest with ourselves and to stand before him with humility, that is to say, with a heart open to his saving power. As we engage in increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent, let us not be satisfied with our own righteousness as the Pharisee was but to look to God for our justification because without Him we have nothing.
You can read Christian’s full article here.
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