(Luke 18: 10-14)
All of us are impressed by the Parable of the humble Publican and the proud Pharisee, which we heard today, on the first Sunday of the Triodion. This most devout period of the Ecclesiastical Year prepares us for the great events of the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. During these days, our Church will call upon us for more opportunities of worship and three weeks later we will start the fasting of some foods.
But there is a great danger. Even if we keep all of these, there is a possibility that everything may be lost, only if we allow our selfishness to dominate within us. The Lord told us in His Parable that the Pharisee prayed very much; he was fasting with precision; he gave a lot of charity to the poor.
And yet, he was condemned by God. Because he did all these, not out of obedience and love for God, but in order to be praised by the people. What a pity! It is as if someone who has been constructing a magnificent house for a long time, with a lot of trouble and deprivations, longing to dwell in it, and yet, he places a mortar on its foundations with his own hands and the house gets blown up in the air!
This is because selfishness is the most dangerous terrorist for a man's soul. There are plenty of examples in the Bible:
- The Lucifer and his Order were turned from angels into demons because of their Ego.
- Adam and Eve, who lived in delight, were sent away from Paradise.
- King Herod Agrippa, while he spoke, was struck by sudden illness, his body was filled with worms and died, because he accepted to be glorified as God (Acts 12: 23).
- Pride takes everyone away from God and makes him an enemy of God, because "God resists the proud" (James 4: 6).
Therefore, now that we know all of this, how do we deal with the issue of pride and ego, which most of the time we do not realize its presence in us?
Firstly, we must realize that our soul is always vulnerable to this deadly spiritual "virus" of pride. Just as we take measures to protect ourselves against being infected by deadly viruses, which can also cause physical death, in the same manner we ought to be even more careful to deal with egoism that causes spiritual death.
Secondly, we ought to point out the symptoms of this spiritual illness.
And what are they?
- When I compare myself with others and I feel that I am better than everyone else, I look like the Pharisee who was condemned by Christ.
- When I brag about my virtues, my good works and my successes, I forget God and I feel that I have achieved all these things by my own effort, I resemble the Pharisee.
- When I criticize others and regard them as sinners, while I consider myself as a good Christian who does everything well, I follow the example of the Pharisee.
- When I get angry with someone, because he pointed out to me my mistakes.
- When my relationship with my fellow men is disturbed, and I believe that I never do anything wrong and always blame others, despite the fact that I may have been the cause of the problem, but I do not want to admit it, then this behavior reveals my pride and ego.
There are so many other manifestations of selfishness and pride, which, if we are not careful enough, the salvation of our soul is in danger. Because a selfish man loves nobody but himself, so he is spiritually alienated from his environment and lives in sad loneliness. Such a person does not love even God, and as result his relationship with Him is cut off and he is deprived of the joy of communion with Him in His heavenly Kingdom.
My brothers, let the Pharisee's example mobilize all of us in a continuous struggle against this dangerous beast of selfishness.