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Hello, this is Fr. George Morelli. Last week I started talking about the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee and how it relates to healing in our lives. This is especially relevant as we are about to enter into the Lenten Season, that time of special spiritual reflection and prayer and ascetic struggle, to prevent us from succumbing to the temptations of the evil one, suffer the illness of the passions, which incline us to sin and become separated from God. A fisrt step is to overcome pride, be able to see ourselves as we are, so we can long to be with God, because without Him we are Colder than the coldest imaginable Cold we can ever conceive. It is no accident that God is referred too as light, because from the light of God comes the warmth of life that gives us light. The illness of sin is the absence of the warmth of God, pride prevents the warmth of God from penetrating us. The publican, who saw himself a sinner, reached out to God, to have mercy on Him .. this is what we too must do. Today .. I will give an example of using humility in a more global example. Humility is not just needed for us, as individual, but the family, nations, the Church, all who make up society then God willing I ill come back to applying this to us individually and introduce us to the next step … in our spiritual healing: repentence… which is shown to us in the Gospel read the last Sunday of this month the Parable of the Prodigal Son
Several years ago, violent reactions including riots, killings, and the burning of Churches that following a recent recent speech by a Christian leader that quoted Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus lamenting the religious strife of his day shows that our time is no less volatile. Emperor Palaeologus’ words were: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
(I am not criticizing the use of the Palaeologus quotation. Instead I attempt to show how scientific psychology suggests different ways of handling sensitive criticisms of other religions that can mitigate potential reactions.)
Help From Nature
St Maximus the Confessor taught that “grace builds upon nature” (Philokalia II). What can nature tell us? One thing is that quoting a Byzantine Christian opinion about Islam, sort of like the Pharisee I discussed already invites immediate rejection. A far better approach would be to cite Islamic interpretations of their own principles and actions. Psychologist Gottman (1999) wrote: “It’s probably easiest to acknowledge this truth if you think about it from your own perspective.” He goes on to say: “When people feel criticized, disliked, and unappreciated they are unable to change. Instead, they feel under siege and dig in to protect themselves.”
Spiritual Basis of Response: The Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee
Applying this principle to our example of criticizing Islam, I may I suggest the following as a model of a Christian response to Islam. Spiritually it is based on the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. Psychologically it is based on “conflict negotiation procedures.” With your indulgence let me write this in the first person.
Jesus’ Teachings On Love
I would always start out with Our Lord’s teachings on love and peace. This might be as simple as parts or all of the first epistle of St. John 4: 7-16:
Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
It might be quoting the words St. Matthew records: “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword’” (Matthew 26:52).
Acknowledge Christian Brokenness
I would acknowledge the shortcoming, the falling short, the brokenness of those who have called themselves Christian and have unjustly promoted war (the Publican).
Once again the words of St. Matthew the apostle quoting Jesus could be of help here: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7: 15). Anyone who has started war and killed supposedly in the name of Christ surely is a “false prophet, and a wolf in sheep’s clothing. “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). St. Matthew continues recording Jesus words: Thus you will know them by their fruits. “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:20-23)
Do Not Do Or Say As The Pharisee
I would never give my opinion of the Prophet or his followers (the Pharisee) There is an excellent text and video of an interview that was aired on Al Jazeera with a Syrian psychologist, Dr. Wafa Sultan who resides in Los Angeles. I suggest listeners do a Google Search on her name and watch the video. She speaks in Arabic but it has English subtitles. The interview sent a major wave throughout the Middle East and the world. In the video the Moslem female psychologist in Los Angeles is highly critical of Islamic teaching and practice. If a Moslem offers an opinion of his or her prophet or Islam, so be it. I will make sure no criticism comes from me. It is more efficacious for a Christian to ask a Moslem to comment on something that comes from an Islamic adherent, in an honest questioning respectful mode.
I would never quote a Christian opinion on Islam whether true or not.
If engaging Islam (in person, or in writing), I would simply quote from the Koran and ask questions such as: “How does this play out in practice?” “What is the meaning in terms of “.....” and give specific detailed behavioral examples. (Psychologically, this is equivalent to letting the “facts do the dirty work for you.”) If an atrocity is committed, simply ask the Moslem person how this relates to the Koran. I would never draw the conclusion myself.
In all encounters with people we have to put on Christ. In words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “We spread the Gospel by modeling Christ, always preaching sometimes using words.” St. Charles de Foucauld, a recently canonized Latin saint who lived among Moslems said: “If these unfortunate Muslims know no priest, see as self-styled Christians only unjust and tyrannical speculators giving an example of vice, how can they be converted? How can they but hate our holy religion.” St. Charles didn’t proselytize as such. His mission, he once explained, was to be a good friend and a good example: I must make people say this when they see me: ‘This man is so good that his religion must be good.’” [Charles de Foucauld: A life hidden with Christ.]
This is a good lesson for all who call themselves Christian.
In his Proverbs (3:34) King Solomon tells us: “Toward the scorners [God] is scornful, but to the humble [God] shows favor.” St. Isaac of Syria tells us: “The person who has attained to knowledge of his own weakness has reached the summit of humility.” Recall the words of Our Lord: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Mt 5: 43-45). God loves the person who extorts, commits adultery, loses their temper, misses Divine Liturgy, is miserly and gossips as much you. He will even send life giving sun and rain on these and all of us. Lord, have mercy on me a sinner, let me and all of us follow your Holy Will and glorify your Holy Name. +
In a recent Google Alert from a monastic blogsite I received a beautiful prayer that may well be said by all Orthodox Christians: This could be said in keeping the spirit of Paul Evdokimov who said: “…the modern world necessitates the universal vocation of interiorized monasticism.”
Litany of Humility
Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, Have mercy on me a sinner.
From the desire of being esteemed, Have mercy on me a sinner
From the desire of being extolled
From the desire of being honored
From the desire of being praised
From the desire of being preferred to others
From the desire of being consulted
From the desire of being approved, Have mercy on me a sinner
From the fear of being humiliated, Have mercy on me a sinner
From the fear of being despised
From the fear of suffering rebukes
From the fear of being maligned
From the fear of being forgotten
From the fear of being ridiculed
From the fear of being wronged
From the fear of being suspected, Have mercy on me a sinner
That others may be loved more than I Jesus grant me the grace to desire it
That others may be esteemed more than I
That in the opinion of the world,
others may increase,
and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside
That may be praised and I unnoticed
That others may be preferred to me in everything
That others become holier than I, provided
that I may become as holy as I should.
Acquiring the virtue of humility is a step at healing the soul. This coming Sunday, we are beginning our journey into Lent ….. if our hearts and mind have been cured of pride, the if we have learned to pray and think of ourselves as the Publican … then we are ready to begin the next step, to be like the Prodigal son, that is to say to repent. We have to see, Like the Prodigal Son, that we have distanced ourselves from our Father and must now await His invitation to return to Him. Our Lord has told us: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. (Rev 3:20).
The Church Fathers reference the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15: 11-32) especially the son’s metanoia, his decision, “the act that places human action within the Divine: ““But when, he said, ‘I will get up and go to my father, “So he got up and came to his father.”” (Lk 15: 17-20). I think the phrase he came to his senses or came to his mind is the most critical key. This cannot be done if we are mired in pride. The proud seem themselves, the humble see they are incomplete unless they are in communion with the One who made them, and have separated themselves from. A parable is a story to teach a lesson. Most hearing this broadcast will are aware, even to this day, observant Jews, do not eat or have anything to do with pork. So it was not until the Prodigal Son, was mired in the swill, feeding the swine or pigs that he could see what he had become … humility and what he must do .. go back to His Father You might say the Prodigal Son was experiencing Spiritual anxiety. I have seen this, in many coming to make a sincere confession, after committing serious sin. They are anxious to be re-united with Christ and His Father. The true, repentance, and the absolution given by the priest, is the surgical tool, removing this separation anxiety and allow us to re-bond with God…Let this upcoming Lent be the beginning of our spiritual healing. In the words of St. John Cassian (c.360-435): “Let always relate … fasting, vigil, solitude——-to the principle end, the purity of heart that is love…”
For Ancient Faith Radio this is Fr. George Morelli
Cardinal Raphael Merry del Val
The ladder of humility
...monk’s ladder of freedom
freedom from desires
freedom from fears
Freedom to love God with all his heart, mind, and soul
and to love his neighbor as him self….
Gottman, J.M. (1994). Why Marriages Succeed or Fail. NY: Simon & Schuster.
Gottman, J.M. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. NY: Three Rivers Press.
Morelli, G. (2006, January 27). Understanding Brokenness In Marriage. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/MorelliMarriage2.php.