Bishop Basil (Nesterenko)

Christ is baptized, dear brothers and sisters! In the Jordan river!

I congratulate you with the Holy Sunday and Holy Communion. Today is the Sunday of Pharisee and Tax Collector (Luke., XVIII:10-14), which is read three weeks before the Great Lent. It seems to me that the fast has recently finished and here is again the Great Lent. Time flies very quickly. That is why we have to get ready to this Great Lent. And the Lord gives us such opportunity; He gives His Gospel like the prescription. He shows the way we have to prepare our soul. And first of all it is a confession.

In the Gospel we can see how Pharisee and Tax Collector came to the Temple to pray. And we see that Pharisee seems to be very religious person: he kept all commandments, kept the fast two days per week, gave tithe. But in the same time he censured his neighbor. He exalted himself to God, he considered himself as if he was very close with God. All other people were sinners in his eyes, but he was excused. But we know that God does not look at people’s words, He looks at their hearts, how the person pray. We should understand: first of all the prayer from heart must go to God.

Pharisaism… I want to stop on such thing as Pharisaism. What it is? Why it makes a lot of evil for the Earth?

It is true that this Pharisaism is everywhere now. It is all over the country. We still remember the Soviet times. We were told that we lived in happy and good country. That there was no better country than the Soviet Union. And we truly believed in that. Our hearts warmed towards all capitalist countries: how bad they felt, what awful crimes and disasters happened there. But later God opened our eyes. He ruined that country by His Will and He showed that it wasn’t God’s country, but on the contrary it fighted with Him. We saw and realized that we lived very badly.

But it was not the end. We see that our authorities say we live well today, that our economics develops. They told us all the time like Pharisee: “We are doing everything for our people, that they could live happily”. And we see that it is a great pharriseeism, because they live for themselves, but not for us.

We also have to understand that pharriseeism came not only in our country, it came in our spirituality. The church also has this disease – pharriseeism. And we felt this in our lives. We also had a spiritual teacher, who leaded us to God. And we heard that he censured all people, he gave knowledge in the lies. This is the example of the pharriseeism. He exalted himself higher by censuring other people. He told that he was so smart, do wise… But the Lord opened our eyes and helped us to see what the pharriseeism is and where it can lead you.

Pharriseeism seems to be harmless at first sight, but it is raised by the arrogance. It grows in arrogance, which brings hatred, terrorism and struggle against your own people on a vast scale.

We have to start with ourselves to overcome the Pharriseeism in our country. We mustn’t become proud in comparison with others. Use the word “I” not often: “I am so good, I do so good things…” You have to use “I” only in such cases: “May I help you? I love God. I love close people.” We have to use our “I” only in positive desires.

And we have to know that a person is saved by his humbleness, not only by the prayer, fast or good doings. You have to ask God with the humbleness for His help to overcome our Pharriseeism. And you can ask: “Why should we keep a fast, pray, or do good doings?” Yes, you must do all that, because they are like tools to get the humbleness in God’s eyes. We can get the humbleness only due to all that virtues.

That is why the Lord gives us this parable about Pharisee and Tax Collector. This topic is very wide and you can endlessly talk about the fact that the presence of the Pharriseeism in the life depends on the person.

The evil in the society becomes so huge that people sometimes do not even understand that they do harm. People do not fight with their sins; they only fight with the results of their sins: illnesses, disasters. We see how it happens on the Earth. This all is the result of sinful life. People do not understand that. They suffer, struggle with diseases, fight with elements, but nothing will help until people confess. Until they will confess in their sins like the Tax Collector did.

That is why I wish you all to realize what the Pharisee is and try to overcome it with God’s help. And remember God’s word’s in the end of the parable: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” And it is true. That is why the road of salvation is in confession, love and humbleness to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let the Lord save you.