February 15, 2022

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

By Archpriest Rodion Putyatin

Why, listeners, was the prayer of the Pharisee not pleasing to God, despite the fact that he was, it seems, a righteous man? And why, on the contrary, was the publican's prayer pleasing to God, although he was a well-known sinner?

God does not listen to sinners, He only listens to the righteous. Why, then, did the Pharisee, good in his prayer, deserve condemnation, while the sinful publican received justification?

The Pharisee deserved condemnation by his prayer because, while praying, he recognized himself as righteous, and the publican was justified by his prayer because he recognized himself as a sinner.

No matter how pure and right you may be, do not recognize yourself as such before God, but recognize yourself as sinners. Yes, God will not hear our prayer when we, praying to Him, are sure that we are right.

But you will say: "How can I bring myself to the realization that I am a sinner when I do not sin, at least I sin much less than others, when I also fulfill the commandments of God, and do good deeds?" It is possible, listeners, and it is easy to realize that we are a sinner, when we reason properly. In fact, let's think carefully: you do not recognize yourself as a sinner - this is a sign that you are not a righteous man, but a sinner, for the righteous never consider themselves right before God. You also realize yourself better than others, and this is an even more certain sign that you really are a sinner, because the righteous always consider themselves worse than others.

Let us reason further: "There are no sins on me now, but there are important sins that others have. How can I confess that I am a sinner and more sinful than others?" Very easy. Let it be that there are no sins on you now, but there were before. Let us suppose that you have been forgiven of your former sins, let us assume that you have made amends with good deeds, washed them away with tears. But still you were a sinner, therefore, you sinned; you are clean from sins by the grace of God, but you yourself are a sinner. You are even a great sinner: you had the strength to abstain from sins, though for now you abstain; others sin out of weakness, but you had the strength not to sin and yet sinned.

Let us argue further: "I have not sinned before, I have sinned much less than others." Let's assume that this is true. But how could you abstain from sins? By itself or by the grace of God? If you yourself abstained from sins, then you are not a righteous man at all, for your nature is such that you could not help but not sin. If you fought against sin, armed yourself against the passions, then the grace of God helped you to refrain. Without the grace of God, you could never have refrained. What do you think about yourself, that you are a righteous person, when you are righteous by the grace of God? Yes, if this person, whom you consider worse than yourself, had been helped by the grace of God as much as you, then he would not have sinned. Yes, listeners, the sins we have or have had are our own, and the good works we do are not ours.

Therefore, if you do not sin now, but have sinned before, then it is obvious that you are a sinner and worse than others, because you could refrain and yet did not refrain; others sin only because they cannot abstain. If you have not sinned before and do not sin now, then you are still a sinner, because you do not recognize yourself as a sinner. Yes, not to recognize oneself as a sinner is a sin, and a great sin.

Let us, listeners, reason thus, and we will finally confess that we are great sinners. Yes, and recognizing ourselves as sinners, let us not regard ourselves as righteous, for that would also be a sin. Yes, and it is sinful if I am comforted by the fact that I recognize myself as a sinner. No, one must finally eradicate sin in oneself; never assure yourself that you are righteous. There is no need to reassure yourself that you are not a sinner. It is necessary that after all fastings and prayers, after all judgments about oneself, one conclusion should come out: I, Lord, am a great sinner, I am not worthy of Your mercy, I am not worthy to ask You for mercy, Lord. Amen.