Saturday, February 18, 2012

Two Sermons by Met. Ephrem

Sermon for the Sunday of the Pharisee and the Tax-Collector, Kfarsaroun, February 5, 2012 Arabic original here.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit

Beloved, today we begin preparation for the great and holy fast. This preparation takes three weeks and four Sundays: the Sunday of the Pharisee and the Tax-collector, the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, Meatfare Sunday, and Forgiveness Sunday, or Cheesefare Sunday.

This Sunday, the Church reads the parable of the pharisee and the tax-collector. This passage is found in the Gospel of Luke. Before the Lord Jesus tells this parable, He says it to those who consider themselves righteous and holy and hold others in contempt.

You know the story of how the Pharisee and the tax-collector entered into the temple to pray. The parable is not just a story that was told in the past. It speaks to every one of us. Every one of us sees which person he is when he enters the church to pray. The Pharisee went to boast of himself that he prays and follows all the canons of the Church and that he helps the poor and the needy, that he is not like this sinful tax-collector, since tax collectors were considered sinners who extorted taxes and stole people's wealth. The Pharisee glorifies in himself, but when the tax-collector entered he felt his sin and stopped in the back of the church. Out of his shame, he began to beat his breast and say, "O God, have mercy on me the sinner!" At that moment, the Lord Jesus justified the tax-collector but he did not justify the Pharisee. What does this parable teach us?

It teaches us two things:

First, that we Christians should enter the fast in humility. If there is prayer and fasting but there is not humility, all our fasting or prayer is of no use. Man is lifted up before God because of his humility.

Second, the parable teaches us prayer. This is the prayer that you constantly hear in the Church, "Lord have mercy on me the sinner." In the great fast, St Ephrem teaches us the prayer of repentance: "O Lord and Master of my life, take away from me the spirit of idleness, curiousity, love of power, and idle talk. Grant me, your sinful servant, the spirit of chastity, humbleness of thought, patience, and love. Yes, my King and my God, grant me to know my sins and faults, and to not judge my brother."

The Pharisee judged his brother and because of that our Lord did not praise him. As the Lord Jesus said, "Judge not, so that you might not be judged."

Likewise, the tax-collector prayed with all his heart and confessed his sin. At that moment, the Lord justified him and said these words, which are a summary of this parable: "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled..." Exalting yourself means being proud before God and before others. To humble yourself means to no longer hold youself to be of value before yourself and before God. But the one who humbles himself is exalted before God. We learn from this parable to be humble, loving, prayerful. This is how the Lord lifts us up to Himself and gives us His great glory, amen.

Sunday of the Prodigal Son, Qarabash, 12 February, 2012 Arabic original here.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit

Beloved, we are that this stage that prepares us for the great fast, which is an occasion for each one of us to benefit from this season. This is why the Church reads to us these parables.

Last Sunday it was the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector and today it is the parable of the prodigal son. This coming Sunday, it will be the parable of the judgment. The parable of the Pharasee and the tax-collector focuses on the issue of humility and says that one who exalts himself (meaning, who is proud) is humbled-- is lowered, and one who humbles himself is lifted up.

Today is the story of the prodigal son who leaves his father and his house and goes "willy-nilly" in the world, giving himself over to his desires. He then becomes poor and has to herd pigs, but then regrets it and returns to his father and repents. The parable teaches us repentence. Parables in the Gospel are not just stories that happened in the past or that the Lord told in the past. They are addressed to each one of us. This means that the Lord asks us to prepare for this season and to learn to repent.

The prodigal son teaches us how to repent. Repentance, as the story demonstrates, is a return to the Father, to God, to our Father. This return requires us to regret our sins. No person exists in this world who does not sin. The great person in this world, as our holy fathers teach us, is one who repents of his sin. Normally, a person hides his sins and weaknesses, but the Church as well as psychologists advise us to acknowledge our weaknesses and confess them.

The sick man comes to the doctor in order to uncover his illness. Sickness of soul is more important, deeper, and more dangerous than sickness of body. The fast is an occasion in the Church for each one of us to examine our heart and see what it is: its faults, its weaknesses, and to repent of them-- not only between ourselves and God, but also confess them and if we have injured another person, to go and make things right, confessing it and asking  for forgiveness.  Such is a person great before God. At that point, God, who is symbolized in this parable by the merciful father, accepts our confession. This requires one to be boldly courageous. In this season, we in the Church must confess, and then God will accept us and bless us and we will live anew, glorifying God and in this way we will remain joyful in our life in peace, amen.

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