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February 13, 2022

First Homily on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee (Archpriest Rodion Putyatin)

By Archpriest Rodion Putyatin

"Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).

To some people who were sure of themselves that they were righteous, while others were humbled, Jesus Christ spoke the following parable. Two people entered the temple to pray: one was a Pharisee and the other was a publican. The Pharisee, standing up, prayed to himself like this: "God! I thank You that I am not like other people, robbers, abusers, adulterers, or like this publican. I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of everything I get." The publican, standing far away, did not even dare to raise his eyes to heaven, but, striking his chest, he said: "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" And further Jesus Christ adds that this one went to his house justified more than that previous one, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted (see Luke 18:10-14).

This is what it means to brag about oneself, but speak badly about others, humiliate others! Look at this Pharisee praying in the temple of God. He took nothing from anyone, offended no one, led a chaste life, fasted twice a week, gave a tenth of his estate to the temple and to the poor. Who will not say that this Pharisee is a righteous man? However, he did not go back to his house justified, but the publican did. Yes, this virtuous Pharisee lost all his virtues by boasting of himself, and said about the publican that he was a bad man.

Observe this publican praying in the temple of God. See how he stands at a distance from everyone, how he beats his chest, how he lowered his gaze; everything shows that he is a great sinner. Yet this great sinner went back to his house justified. Yes, this great sinner is justified because he condemned himself, he realized himself as a sinner, which he really was. Let us not, listeners, speak evil of others, but boast of ourselves. To brag about oneself means to humiliate oneself. And God and people will cease to love the one who takes it into his head to boast of himself. Our good deeds cease to be good when we boast of them. We lose the due reward for our labors when we tell everyone about them with complacency.

Equally, to humiliate others is to humiliate yourself. We ourselves become low before God and people when we speak low of our neighbor; we dishonor ourselves when we tarnish the honor of others. And how can we say bad things about others? How long will it take for a bad man to become better than us? Does it take long for him to correct himself and receive justification from God? Is it long for him and the publican to say: "God, be merciful to me a sinner"? We see and hear that this person abuses, robs, lives dissolutely. But do we see, but do we hear how he beats his sinful chest, how he cries about his sins before God? We know how he sins every day, every hour he makes a lie. But do we know that at the same time that we condemn him, he, perhaps on his knees, covered in tears, stands before the merciful God and prays from the depths of his soul: "God, be merciful to me a sinner"? Maybe at the very moment when we say that this person has done this, that and the other, at that very minute God says to him: "I forgive you this, and that and the other thing, and I forgive you everything."

Therefore, listeners, perhaps we condemn our neighbor at the very time when God justifies him in His righteous judgment. Let us remember that even the lowest sinners are not far from deep humility, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted, when God justifies him in His righteous judgment.