Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kýrie, eléison

At The Internet Monk, on the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican [Luke 18:9-14]:
...[T]he righteous look down on sinners and thank God that they are not like them, saying “There but for the grace of God go I.” And the sinners look down on the righteous and assert they wouldn’t be caught dead being such snobs, openly suspecting it’s all a big act put on by whitewashed tombs.
Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. (Rom 2:1, NRSV)
As usual, the ever-wise C.S. Lewis had his finger on the pulse of the matter here. In Mere Christianity, he wrote:
Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good—above all, that we are better than someone else—I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.
So then, how should we read this parable? We should read it looking only at Jesus. Not at the Pharisee. Not at the publican. Trying to identify with either of them in contrast to the other leads only to spiritual pride—thank God I’m not like him!—regardless of which one I’m pointing to.

But when I look at Jesus and realize that he is pointing me to God, who alone has the power to justify me—then I will take the appropriate position coram Deo (before the face of God). Comparison with others will not cross my mind. My complete attention will be on confessing the secrets of my heart to the One who is looking right through me and requiring an account. In a desperation that consumes all my energies, I will find myself crying out for his word of forgiveness and reinstatement. My concentration will become incredibly focused, not on myself, not on others, but on the One who made me, who knows me, who speaks the truth to me, who invites me to relate honestly and directly with him. [more]
The Real Test of Being in God’s Presence |

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