Sunday, January 20, 2013
The Full Die and the Empty Live
Today is the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the first Sunday of Pre-Lent. The Latin Rite only has three pre-Lenten Sundays as opposed to the Byzantine Rite's four, so Septuagesima Sunday isn't until next week. This is a time for light penance as a "warm-up" for the strict fast of Lent. It is a time to separate ourselves from the world and remove all worldly things from us that we might belong only to God and be filled only with His blessings. If we fill our lives with our own strengths and accomplishments, then our lives are fake, man-made, and artificial. More importantly the things in our lives cannot survive death. God alone survives death. That is why the Resurrection is so important. It shows us that God survives death so we must join ourselves to Him in order to survive our own deaths. To join ourselves to Him, we must first empty ourselves of everything worldly, everything that is not God, that we might belong entirely to Him.
The pharisee built up his own life and reputation. He lived a man-made, artificial life where he took pride in his own abilities and achievements. The publican on the other hand, and publicans (tax collectors) were just as sinful and evil then as they are now, repented of his life of sin, rejecting his many innumerable sins. The pharisee went home condemned and unjust. He wasn't able to be filled with God's grace and blessings for he refused to empty himself of his own achievements and abilities. The publican on the other hand, was justified, forgiven and filled with every grace and blessing because he rejected his sins so God was able to fill him, for God forces Himself on no one. "Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Lk 16:24) That's all it is folks. That sums up this Gospel and all of Lent. Reject your sins and empty yourself of all your abilities and desires to allow God to fill you with His life, for He forces Himself on no one. God alone is immortal and survives death, so if you are full of your own abilities and desires, you will not live and surely die an eternal death. Only by being filled with God's life can any of us survive death and we can only be filled with God's life if we empty ourselves of everything to the contrary.