Prodigal Pharisees

Prodigal Pharisees February 16, 2017

Publican and Pharisee by Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
Publican and Pharisee by Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
When looking at the Sundays together, we can then see as an underlying theme the waywardness of those who presume themselves to be righteous as well as the loving grace which is possible once that self-righteousness is cut off through humility. We are to see how the criticism strikes at who and what we have made ourselves out to be, to see ourselves as the Pharisees who believe we are better than the rest because we have it all figured out, even as we are to see ourselves once again welcomed back by God who is always there, willing to embrace us with his love, every time we humble return to him as our spiritual edifice is shaken and destroyed when our ideological expectations fail to produce the beatitude we desire.  We are, then, constantly Prodigal Pharisees. Time and time again, we find ourselves humbled and returning to God, finding much grace in his bountiful love, and then time and time again, we get complacent with where we are at, and turn away from the spirit of our faith and make it, once again, a legalistic expectation which then slowly reifies itself and separates us from God. The letter kills, the spirit gives life, and we, ourselves, find ourselves consistently living our faith in a cycle, at times, humble and refreshed, at times prideful and self-righteous. We might not go as far astray as the prodigal son did in the parable, and find ourselves as extreme as the Pharisee, but until we are purified of all our impure habits and the bad seeds which they place in our minds, we will find ourselves living out this cycle, realizing how we tend to make ourselves to be Prodigal Pharisees, ever swaying from one side of the judgment to the other.  Hopefully, in the process we will learn and experience the fullness of grace, let it penetrate us, and keep in mind our own weakness, so when we see others stumble, we will help them with the same grace which we want for ourselves, and so truly follow the path of justice which lifts up those in need and in doing so, find ourselves known by Jesus by what we have done for those in need.

We must continue to struggle with our innate desire to lift ourselves up in pride, to stop ourselves from becoming the Pharisee who rejoices in their own goodness and righteousness. We must find a way to die to the self, so that we can then find ourselves resurrected in true glory with Christ.  So long as we remain broken sinners who need redemption, we must remember that we do not construct the truth through our thoughts and words; we must not try to control others through what little of the truth and goodness we grasp but rather, we must always allow for the transcendence of truth to prevail. Only by letting go of all our thoughts, emptying ourselves of all ambition, dying to the self on the cross, can we awaken to the truth and then we will let it move us and motivate us to act in love with all, embracing all, guiding all in wisdom without legalistic attachments.

The Great Fast which comes is a means by which can practice such self-emptying. The Great Fast is the time in which we try, once again, to gain control over the passions and instincts and habits which lead us away from the openness of love.


[1] The story also reminds those who have not fallen away not to be envious of such mercy, for they, too, receive the bountiful grace of the Father.

[2] Origen, “Homily 5 On Isaiah” in St. Jerome. Origen. Commentary on Isaiah. Origen Homilies 1-9 on Isaiah. trans. Thomas P Scheck (New York: Newman Press, 2015), 903.



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