The Parable of the Publican and Pharisee. St. Nikolai Velimirovic Luke 18:10 – 14

Imagine now that we are patients in this hospital of the world. The sickness that every one of us is suffering from has the same name – unrighteousness. The word includes all the passions, all lust, all sins – all the weakness and enervation of our souls, our heats and our minds.


The sick are one thing at the beginning of their illness, another at its peak and yet another in its healing. But such are the characteristics of these illnesses of the inner man that only those who are healed are aware of the terrible sickness from which they had been suffering.


The sickest are the least aware of their illness. In physical illness, a man with a high fever is unaware of himself or his illness. Neither does a madman say of himself that he is mad. Beginners in unrighteousness feel ashamed of their sickness for a while, but repeated sinning swiftly leads to the habit of sin, and this to the inebriation and delirium of unrighteousness in a state in which the soul has no longer any sense of itself or its sickness.


And just imagine a doctor going into a hospital and asking: "What is wrong with you?" Those whose illness is in the early stages are ashamed to admit they are sick, but will say: "Nothing!" Those whose illness has reached its peak will be angered by such a question, and will not only say: "Nothing's the matter with us!" but will begin to boast of their health.


Only those who are on the way to healing will sigh, and reply to the doctor: "Everything is wrong with us! Have mercy on us and help us!" Tertullian says, in a homily on repentance: "If you are afraid to confess your sins, look at the flames of hell that confession alone can extinguish."


Ponder, then, on all this; listen to Christ's parable and decide for yourself how apt it is. If you say in amazement: "This parable does not apple to me", then this means that you are sickened in the illness known as unrighteousness. If you protest: "I am righteous; this applies to the sinners around me", then this means your sickness has reached its peak. If, though, you beat your breast in repentance and reply: "It's true; I'm sick and need a doctor", then this means you are on the way to healing. Don't be afraid then; You'll get well.



Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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1 comment

  1. "Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”
    When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”"
      Mark 2:15-17
    I always thought this story was interesting.  The judgmental, prideful scribes and Pharisees insult Jesus' guests, calling them 'sinners'. But when Jesus hears it, His reply to them could easily be taken as a compliment.  He simply tells them that the 'well' don't need a physician.  He has come to call sinners, not the righteous, to repentance.  They probably went away very satisfied with themselves.  "He's not eating and speaking with us, because He realizes that we are well and don't need His teaching and healing."
    What a scary thought….that we could go happily and self satisfied through life,  assuming we don't need to repent (or that we have repented enough).  Is it possible to hear the words of the Master telling us that He has come to save sinners and not even realize that He is talking about us?
    I say I know that I am a sinner, even try to wrap my mind around the fact that "I am the chief of sinners".  But do I really believe that, in the depths of my being?  Not yet.  I must continue on, striving to understand and realize how sick I am, otherwise I will not/cannot receive the Physician's healing.  Thankfully, if I seek and ask, the Lord will make sure I have plenty of opportunities to see the illness that remains: "Prove me, O God, and know my heart; examine me, and know my paths; and see if there is any way of iniquity in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
    Psalm 138:23-24

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