The Publican and the Pharisee – Sunday, February 9
Fake News isn’t the only fake item out there.
When you go shopping, have you ever noticed that a lot of stuff out there looks like the name-brand item but in reality, is fake? These knock-off items may resemble the original ones but in the long-run never seem to be of the same quality or have the same durability.
Unfortunately, when we speak of the human condition, we may also say the same thing: there are many people who have fake personalities. Having an authentic personality is a true joy since it means that you are living a genuine life with nothing to hide. An authentic person manifests the same attributes at home as they do in public. Nothing changes between their private and public persona because they are grounded in themselves and are truthful.
One should, on an ongoing basis, examine if his life is an authentic Christian expression. By using the saints as a guide, we get an honest assessment of how we are living our lives in the name of Christ. Are we true or are we fake? Some lives resemble a masquerade party; they are always hiding behind masks of emotions, false pretenses, and distortions for the purpose of creating an alternative appearance. These people live with “shadow lives”. A dark presence follows them, and their true identity is mostly concealed from others until, when finally alone, conditions prevail as to manifest their true demeanor.
As we enter into the Triodion period or preparation for Great Lent, there is no better delineation between the authentic and the distorted life than the parable of the Publican and Pharisee as recorded by Luke 18-10:14.
Two individuals go to the Temple to pray; one a publican and the other a Pharisee. These two individuals differ drastically as the first will express authentic human characteristics in the presence of God, while the latter distorts the truth of his own humanity while denigrating a fellow congregant.
Fake reality claims the purity of personhood despite the fact that each of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. – Romans 3:23 Both the publican and the Pharisee were sinners in the presence of God. The publican chose to expose his frailty of character and personhood to the Lord. The Pharisee, on the other hand, refused to expose his frailty and thus lost that which the other received – redemption through God’s grace.
What a terrible thing befell the Pharisee! In a display of audacious pride, he refused, in the presence of God at the Holy Temple, to remove the mask of inauthenticity preferring his shadow life and insincerity to God’s abundant love and mercy.
At first glance, one might not be able to determine the real item from a fake. But as time passes the authentic becomes quite noticeable. So too it is with both figures in this Gospel reading. Both men enter the Temple resembling grateful men. Both seem to have words of gratitude: The Pharisee says, “God, I thank thee…” The publican, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” But it’s the position of the Lord in these words that matter and make them authentic. The Pharisee’s words are fake since they exclude the Lord’s action altogether. He is proud ascribing all his accomplishments and good deeds to his own strength while condemning the publican and most likely others to unfavorable judgments. The publican’s words show authentic repentance by exposing every fiber of his soul to the Lord. His humility and genuine nature grant him perfect recovery from the tragedy of sin.
The Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee is directed toward those who trust in themselves and who do not attribute everything to God, and who, as a result, despise others. It shows how the masks of false pretense and distortion create a fake life made void of quality and durability. Finally, this parable also describes how an authentic human being is poised in the presence of God and how with complete humility and utter dependence on God, we are saved from the falsities of this world in which we live.