Pharisee & Publican
There is an aspect of prayer which may certainly elude so many of us. So we must say, 0 Lord, when we experience our own finitude, the weakness of our flesh, the uncertainty of the future, the overwhelming feeling of our fragility, we turn to you in prayer to ask NOT for a miracle but for patience, not for freedom from suffering, but for the strength to bear it. That is what the Pharisee overlooked and sadly ignored in his own life.
Perhaps he never had the consolation of hearing from the very lips of the Saviour, I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but be brave, I have conquered the world John 16: 33.
Our mission as devoted followers of the Lord demands that we go as Jesus went. When there were services in the temple or the local synagogue, our Lord was present. Scripture attests to it that both his parents provided him with an example to follow in worship. They were where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there. Thus if we do what is expected of a believer, of a disciple, of a follower of the Lord, we will more avidly expect our faith to be enriched and anticipate without question that He will do for us what He promises, what we expect of him as our God and Saviour. We have to be disposed to receive because He is always disposed to share with us. If we are luke-warm, to say the least, in fulfilling his expectations of us, we are not going to be fervent in our expectation of Godly response from him.
Our original and fundamental mission as believers is to be present when He is present for us. That means every Sunday, every holy day without exception. And it often amazes me when people say they are tool sick, or not feeling up to it to come into his presence! There is no more appropriate time than when we are feeling out of sorts, when we are ill, when we are overwhelmed, to want the presence of Christ in our living! What about the stooped-over lady who was looking for a cure? What about the blind man, the one who had leprosy, the one who needed assistance to be pushed into the pool at Siloam?
The best place, the ideal place, the only place for us to want to be when we are out of sorts is in the presence of our God: What good will a restful bed do without the presence of Christ? That is the kind of faith we need to manifest, that is the kind of mission we need to make public. That is the sentiment of heart and soul that must be exhibited if we want to save our souls. Since our God cannot save us without us, we
have to have more eagerness, an empowered response to his first shown love. We have to have at least as much concern to save ourselves as He does! If it is too dark outside for us to overcome and praise our God, then why do we need a God? If God is not going to protect us, is not going to strengthen and affirm us, is not going to make up what is lacking in us to glorify his name, then why do we need a God? If we are afraid of driving in the dark, we do not place ourselves in his care! If we are frightened something bad is going to happen to us, then we ought to remind ourselves of the affirmation of St. Paul who loudly and dramatically announced, The man who observes the day does so to honor the Lord.. None of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master. While we live we are responsible to the Lord and when we die we die as
his servants. Both in life and in death we belong to the Lord. That is why Christ died and came to life again that the he might be Lord of both the dead and the living Romans 14: 7 -9.
We have evening liturgies here so that all have an opportunity to worship, even those who are employed and might otherwise not be able to come and thus be deprived of God's blessing if they are celebrated during the day. We have people in our parish who do not know what a holyday Liturgy is. So that no one have an excuse their spiritual needs are not being met, we make available heavenly worship for all. Do you think it is easy for me to drive 45 minutes or an hour here, celebrate and then drive home again? All I ask of the Lord is to provide me with the grace to be able to celebrate in his honor and for his glory. Thus whatever problems I encounter because of age or whatever, are overcome and I do what He expects of me. In fulfilling my personal mission as a priest of Jesus Christ, I am encouraged by words of our Saviour: If one of you had a servant plowing or herding sheep and he came in from the fields, would you say to him, `Come and sit down at table? Would you not rather say, `Prepare my supper. Put on you apron and wait on me while I eat and drink; you can eat and drink afterward'? Would he be grateful to the servant who was only carrying out his orders? It is quite the same with you who hear me. When you have done all you have been commanded to do, say, `We are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty' Luke 17: 7 - 10.
The problem with the Pharisee is that He felt he was doing God a big favor coming to the temple and praying, even attempting to praise him with flowery words. The praise should have come from his activity, from his faith-filled actions because words are cheap and can be spitted out by anyone, particularly one who knows how to flatter. The mistake the Pharisee made is thinking our God is a dumb dumb, so desperate to hear good things falling even from evil lips that He accepts them joyfully.
The God of heaven requests the honor of our presence at his table every day of Sabbath and praise; every holyday. And of course we are all busy with our daily schedule, so do we muster up enough interest? Do we plan ahead with great anticipation? Do we share the excitement of our heart and soul with the special Meal of the living Body and Blood of the Saviour? Do we try to make the best impression for our gracious host, the Lord, God, Creator and Saviour of the universe?
By our words and lifestyle, do we join the repentant publican who glorifies the God of the universe with the sobering words of St. Paul in the Roman epistle, ...to God be glory forever Romans 11: 36?
Today we are called upon to ask the Lord to say with our presence the words we cannot say with our lips. Help us to accept in trust what we cannot change by fear. Lord, permit the reassuring words you offered your disciples be ours today: Be not afraid Matthew 14:27, for I am with you always until the end of time. Be not afraid, entrust your entire life to me, for I am with you, no matter what!
Today we are called upon to remember that life is not meant to avoid pain and that to genuinely live and love means to accept the risk of suffering for the sake of the Lord! Above all, perhaps it is best for us to remember in our mission journey to eternity that our life is not a destiny, but a journey that leads to our rightful destiny in eternity. So we must be kept open to whatever destiny our God in heaven prepares for us. We know and see all around us that our God never takes away the joy of his children without preparing them for a more lasting and complete never-ending experience; He is with us, He is in us, the Lord abounds in those who express their need for him. This is the lesson we learn once and for all from the Pharisee. Our life is not our own; our life mission is true as St. Paul expressed it, to live for the sake of Jesus Christ our Saviour.