Bishop Joanikije on yesterday’s gospel reading (H/T here):
“Life experience teaches us that when man is in danger, in trouble, or in some sin, he needn’t fall into despair over his misfortunes, nor to lose hope, since many who have been in danger have been saved, many who have sinned have corrected their entire lives and from being sinners they have become righteous and Saints. Life experience teaches us this, but also the Church of God. If we would compare those two men of whom we heard in the Holy Gospel, the one who called himself righteous and the publican who repented – if we were to compare them to a ship coming to port we would be able to find some similarities.
“We assume, brothers and sisters, that that man (the Pharisee), was truly righteous and that he fulfilled all of God’s commandments, that he didn’t commit any sins, and kept himself from secrets. By our human reasoning we would say that this was a righteous man. But the Lord through His word confirms that this is not sufficient and that that man is lacking something important from his righteousness. This righteousness and this righteous man – who truly made an effort to fulfill God’s commandments – lacked humility, and repentance and this is the most important, he lacked compassion, philanthropy, true, human compassion for his neighbor.
“But this other man, was surely a sinner, but he sincerely repented. We can compare him to the man who is in danger and has found his salvation through repentance. He sincerely repented, from his heart, he didn’t judge anyone but himself. His true repentance was received by the Lord, his short prayer: Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner, was received by the Lord as if he had done an entire Vigil and more. What brought to such closeness to God, dear brothers and sisters? Repentance. For repentance is hope, repentance is faith, repentance is nobleness, readiness for change. That is what brings us to the closeness of God, and this shows us that God loves both the sinners and the righteous. God rejoices in the righteous who make an effort, but the righteous need to attain humility. Only then will their righteousness shine like the sun. If there is no humility then the greatest virtues are darkened, they lose their value, they are converted to their opposite.”